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Romain Grosjean Q&A: Mental focus now on Haas development

30 Sep 2016

After stunning the paddock with top-six finishes for newcomers Haas in the first two races of 2016, Romain Grosjean has seemed somewhat frustrated of late, as the American squad have struggled to repeat such glories. However, according to Grosjean they remain firmly on the right trajectory - and after the early fanfare his mind is now set on helping develop the team for the future. We caught up with the Frenchman for an exclusive insight ahead of this weekend’s Malaysian round…

Q: Romain, Haas came into Formula One racing with a big bang - 22 points in the first four races. But since then it’s gone a bit quiet. Was the preparation better than the in-season development?

Romain Grosjean: Look, we are improving our qualifying pace race after race compared to the front running teams - and that is a good prospect. We came in ready and for some strange reasons we got the tyres to work really well in the first two races - and that is what made it for us. Then, of course, also others improved. Look at McLaren - they have massively improved and jumped ahead of us. Toro Rosso have improved. And in all fairness, we are still learning to put everything together on a race weekend, which I hope we will achieve very soon. But as I just said, if you take the sheer lap times we are getting better and better. Yes, we’ve started pretty early with the 2017 car, but there are still six races to go this season - so it is not over yet!

Q: How big a hurdle is it for a new team to have to take care for two lines of development - this season’s and next season’s? Is that something you underestimated?

RG: Not underestimated, but yes, it is pretty difficult to juggle two completely different cars. There are teams that have so much more resource - and then it gets much easier. But we came here with a long-term plan. The aim is to do better in the second year - and even better in the third. And there is nothing that would speak against this plan. We have a lot of good people on board and we have a strong relationship with Ferrari - and that should help. Right now - even if people think a bit differently - we are perfectly on target, as we didn’t get carried away by the first few races.

Q: Judging from your team radio comments, you have seemed a bit impatient lately. How do you see your situation?

RG: If I didn’t come to every race wanting to score big, then why should I come? I want to win. Yes, sometimes what I say under emotions on the radio is not what I mean - but then think: there are no microphones on the soccer fields! I wouldn’t want to know what their reaction is when things turn unpleasant. (Laughs) We are very much exposed with the transmission of our conversations. So yes, I do get frustrated - and I say it. I want to do better and I know that our people can do better. Maybe I sometimes want too much - I was dreaming of glory too early - but now I am back to a development mentality.

Q: There are three very skilled and experienced drivers on the grid whose F1 careers seem to have stalled slightly: you, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas. What is your way out - and on to the top?

RG: Well, for myself I think I’ve made the right decision last year by joining Haas. Yes, if I could be world champion next season I would immediately sign wherever - but that is not going to be the case. Take Nico Rosberg: it took him 111 races to win a race and then it started to work for him. He has been a championship contender now for the last three years. I want the same.

Q: Do you have the patience to wait?

RG: Do I have another choice?

Q: It was always clear that you would be the driver to lead the team. Are you satisfied with the job you’ve done so far?

RG: I think I’ve done pretty well. Yes, there is always room for improvement - from myself and everyone in the team. Thank God we are humans and not robots! (Laughs) We are not far behind Toro Rosso in the constructors’ standing - and Renault are behind us. And we are only in our first year!

Q: As a brand new team, after almost one season, what were the most difficult issues to overcome?

RG: When you are on such a high level as Formula One, everything needs to be perfect. You simply cannot leave any details on the side. Yes, we still can improve with the pit stops, improve in the way we look at data and how we engineer them. I can still improve as a driver - also in my feedback. Yes, there is room - but we are not the only ones here. But the biggest challenge of it all is to manage the tyres.

Q: Your team principal Guenther Steiner said there is now almost no hope of catching Toro Rosso in the standings. This might be because only one driver - you - is scoring points? Why do you think it has been so difficult for your team mate Esteban Gutierrez to score? Is it a lack of experience in coping with an all-new team situation?

RG: Let’s put it differently: every time there was an opportunity for us I took it - and that wasn’t the case for him. I am not always super quick in qualifying, but in the race whenever I see an opportunity I am there. I am much better in the race. Thank God, as the other way around would be even more disappointing.

Q: Where do you see your issues with qualifying?

RG: The tyres are not giving me the same good feeling as last year. I have to improve that. And we haven’t found the right set-up yet that helps me in qualifying. But not such a big deal.

Q: Are you surprised that despite being new, Haas are doing better than your old team Renault (formerly Lotus)?

RG: No. Experience shows. Why? Because I knew what I had and knew what was going to come. And I discovered the Haas project and knew that this was going to be better.

Q: Malaysia is a very challenging race and probably the hottest of the season. For Singapore many drivers did special programs like training in steam rooms and saunas. Have you done anything particular for this weekend?

RG: No, not really. I’ve kept my normal training session. And to be honest, I pretty much like the hot temperatures.

Q: You were 13th fastest in first practice session today and 20th in the second. What are your expectations for Sunday?

RG: When looking at how it went for me today, I am of course not really satisfied. Having said that, I also know that it will be better tomorrow, as we’ve tried a lot of things that we have to evaluate this evening. As I also said before, qualifying is not my strongest point this season, so I will take it as a development weekend and take it as it comes. Expectations bring frustration - so no such thing! (Laughs)