Romain Grosjean enjoyed a strong showing during the Korean Grand Prix weekend, starting third on the grid he went on to finish third in the race, but could well have been second where he spent most of the race until a mistake allowed his teammate through in the final stages. The Lotus driver spoke afterwards.
You did such a cracking drive. Obviously getting yourself into second place, that lovely fight. Tell us the story of the fight with Lewis to start with…
Romain Grosjean: Well I think it was pretty good fun. We had a good start, good run for the back straight and then could go for the place with Lewis. Then I think he kept a little bit of KERS to go for Turn Five and I had to defend a little bit but it was pretty good at the start and then after the first pitstop again, same story, so yeah, it was a hard job. And then it was good to be very close to the Red Bull. They didn’t go too far away so I think we had a good chance to catch them back but unfortunately for me – and luckily for Kimi, that’s good for the team – the safety car came and we had to pit at the same time and the same tyre age. I think we wanted to get a little bit of an advantage. Then I made a small mistake, my fault and Kimi could pass me – and then yellow flags at Turn Four, Turn Three and I couldn’t use the DRS. Tried to push hard at the end, good to be back on the podium, good for the team and happy to be here.
That chase in the early stages, were you absolutely on the limit there when you were trying to catch him?
RG: No, I think we played it pretty well. It was a good first lap and a good exit of the first pitstop fighting with Lewis who was very quick on two, three laps but I think then he had an issue with his tyres. I looked at the board at one stage and think from one lap to another one, I had the feeling he lost 0.8 seconds to me. And it seems that every time there will be a battle with Seb, there’s a safety car coming. Same as Germany unfortunately. We had the plan to pit quite early, just a few laps after the safety car came, trying to jump him and go for a very long last stint – but it didn’t work because of the safety car. But basically the car was very good. I mean at one stage we thought that we will switch to three stops because the front was going away – so I pushed a bit harder and then the team told me, “can you try to make it to two?” So I backed off a little bit but the car came back even better and I was looking consistently quick and so on. And then I think bad luck for me, a safety car came. I did a small mistake on the restart, Kimi could go into Turn One. I was going to use the DRS to get the place back and again, bad luck, Turn Three was yellow. It is what it is. It’s my fault, I went a bit wide in Turn 15, not the end of the world I think. What is good is that Seb has not been flying away today. We were always within four seconds of him and looking pretty well on the long stint. It’s not a track that is favouring us with the front-limitation. We all suffer with front-right tyre graining and that was the problem, the main problem. We know we take care more of our rear tyres. So, it’s good to be back on the podium, good to score a lot of points for Lotus and let’s go to Japan which is the most beautiful track of the world.
We were talking about your confidence earlier on in the weekend. I guess it’s been given a boost. What’s it going to be like in Suzuka?
RG: Hopefully we go for P1! I don’t know. I think it was good to have a good start, to be able to fight at the front and it’s good to have a strong qualifying, a strong race. I don’t need any luck to be there. It just goes how it goes and it’s looking pretty good. The car is suiting me more and more and I think we can still learn a little bit but there we are.
Can you describe to us the conversation with the team when you were in the situation to fight with Kimi? We could hear some parts of the conversation but not all of it…
RG: Our radio is quite bad, I have to say. I don’t hear most of the conversations either. I just made a mistake, Kimi could go for it and the unfortunately there was a yellow flag at turn three so I couldn’t get my place back. I was quicker today but then we have rules not to fight. It’s a track where it is most impossible to overtake even though there are long straights. I mean in sector two and three there is so much issue with the front tyres so you cannot get close enough and then lose a lot of downforce, lose a lot of lap time. I should have avoided that astroturf in Turn 15 and it would have been the end of the conversation.
Do you think the Lotus had the pace to beat the Red Bull today without the safety cars?
RG: I don’t know how much Sebastian left in his pocket. I figured it was pretty close after the… well, while I was close to him, I didn’t want to close the gap too early, because you know that if follow a car by too much, we are all aware that the front tyre is the issue so you lose a lot of downforce from the fronts so you grain even more. So every time he was a little bit ahead I was giving a gap and then following the gap and I was surprised how our pace at one stage… I thought the front tyres were going away but I was surprised our lap time was still improving, so I was catching a little bit back and I think the last stints would have been pretty epic without the safety car, because that was basically the longest one on the tyres and we were going right to the end of their life so that could have been either the gamble to go for the lead… maybe both of us… I don’t know if we would have reacted but it would have been close and no more rubber on the tyres.
You said after the first initial graining phase that the times were improving but that safety car… was there anything on your Friday data to suggest that you might have actually made it to the end, without the safety car?
RG: Well, I think we hold the long runs on Friday to see how it goes and we choose which tyre we preferred. I think everybody did, it was the medium tyres and now we know after one stage it would balance the car a little bit. The question is how much to push at the beginning because the first few laps are the most critical from the front tyres. Yeah, it more or less looked as it was on the plan and then once you fit the prime tyres and you do your second stint, you know how much you can extend the last one and they can try to calculate the degradation and so on to give you the best chance to have the longest stint possible.