Latest / Interview

Exclusive Romain Grosjean Q&A: Lotus haven't forgotten how to perform

23 Jul 2015

After a disastrous 2014, Lotus's fortunes were expected to take a real upturn this year as they switched to Mercedes power, with Romain Grosjean hopeful of returning to podium contention. That may not have happened yet, but the Frenchman remains bullish about his prospects for the second half of the season. In an exclusive interview, he outlines the causes of his optimism, discusses speculation about Renault purchasing the team, and explains why he hasn't abandoned dreams of one day winning the world championship...

Q: Romain, let's start with Jules Bianchi. You've spoken some very warm words since the sad passing of your countryman. What will you remember most about him?

Romain Grosjean: We have been together so long in our careers that it is impossible to pick out one moment, but what springs to my mind is that I was leaving a go-kart race back in 2003 and Jules was one category under me and his name came up in the kart paddock: ‘This Bianchi is going to be a superstar' - as I wasn't so good in karting that was somewhat funny to hear. Then Jules followed pretty much my career path: I was French Formula Renault champion and he was French Formula Renault champion. Then our routes met for the first time racing against each other in 2011 in GP2 when he was with ART and I was with DAMS and we had a good fight for the championship. Then we both made it to F1. I was lucky to be in the front for two years - and in my difficult 2014 season we were fighting against each other many times. What I really remember is crossing the line in Monaco in 2014 behind him - when he collected his first points. He was given a penalty so after the race he finished behind me - but that doesn't matter: he finished the race ahead of me in P8!

Q: F1 racing hadn't seen a fatal accident for 21 years. For a sport that is so on the limit that is a fantastic achievement. But of course an element of risk remains - do you think people sometimes forget that?

RG: Probably. The younger generation more than the older ones. Some of the drivers were not born when Ayrton [Senna] died - look at Max Verstappen or Carlos Sainz. I remember that day very well. I was eight years old. We got extremely lucky that nothing happened in 21 years, even though we race hard. I was here in 2009 racing in GP2 when Felipe Massa had his crash. My wife was a journalist back then and she told me she had spent all night in the hospital for information - and it's almost a miracle that Felipe recovered so well. So I think F1 was really lucky until destiny decided that things would go wrong on the 5th of October 2014 for Jules. 

Q: For yourself and Lotus, sixth in the constructors' standings is surely not what you expected at this stage. What's your explanation for that?

RG: We haven't forgotten how to perform! We still have some very strong people in the team - so the DNA is still there. Unfortunately we haven't been able to update the car as much as we would have wanted. We started the year pretty well getting into Q3 in every race, but now we are struggling as we haven't managed to bring the updates that we would like. Force India made a good step at Silverstone and Toro Rosso made a good step in Austria so it is getting harder and harder for us. I think some of the coming tracks will suit us better. Hopefully we will then leave this 'back-foot' situation! (laughs) I think fifth in the championship should be realistic for us - and where we belong, I believe.

Q: There have been rumours circulating in recent months that Lotus could be purchased back by Renault. You started out your F1 career when the team was still Renault - and your memories for that period must be rather mixed. What would be your expectations now?

RG: Ha, wouldn't that be fun? Renault has played a big part in my career. They took me under their wing in 2005 when I was part of the Renault Driver Development Programme. Then they put me in F1 - where I got fired, which was not the best part of my Renault relationship. But I came back and have been on the podium nine times with a Renault engine in the back of my car at a team called Lotus. For F1 and the fans it would be fantastic to have a manufacturer team back that's as prominent as Renault - that would be great.

Q: What about Cyril Abiteboul as team principal and Alain Prost as chairman? Would you stay? Could it be some sort of a French national team?

RG: Yes, if it happens that way it would seem that way. Alain is the most successful French driver to date, so he knows the business. And Cyril has been in F1 for quite a while now - first with Caterham and now with Renault. I have no idea where the negotiations stand, but if that would be the case it would be great. And a French driver on top of it - that would be awesome. Hopefully we could hear (French national anthem) La Marseillaise…

Q: On current form it looks like you will have to make a move sooner rather than later if you want to hang on to the dream of winning the title. Is becoming world champion still your ultimate goal?

RG: It is. That's why I wake up every morning. If I didn't have that still in my head what would be the point of coming to a race? It is more than a dream for me. Yes I think it is still possible. Yes, you need a good car and a good engine…

Q: But so far it doesn't seem that it is paying off that much for Lotus, having a Mercedes engine in the back of the car…

RG: …believe me it is much better than last year! Unfortunately we just couldn't materialise it as we should have. But we're only halfway through the season and we do have things in the pipeline.

Q: What could your next career move look like? Could a works Renault team be your best shot at the title?

RG: It could be one option. Renault with a French driver could be a nice story - and it would also be nice to be part of a big team. 

Q: If you say a Renault manufacturer team could be one option, what is the other?

RG: Ha, my lips are sealed….

Q: It's mid-season and you're tenth in the drivers' standings - will things go much better in the second half?

RG: Good question. I was eighth at one point in the season, then I dropped two places - but I want to take them back! But then being tenth means you are the tenth best driver in the world, and that is not bad as I know that I get the maximum out of the car - also compared to my team mate.

Q: Will Budapest be the start of a turnaround then?

RG: I like it here. I have been on the podium here - in 2012 - and the next day my son was born so this time and place are good for me. 2014 I deleted - so let's hope that 2015 is a good year again!