Romain Grosjean’s shares in Formula 1 continue to soar as he powered to third place in the Japanese Grand Prix after being the only driver to challenge the dominance of Red Bull at one of the most demanding and challenging venues on the calendar – in fact the Lotus driver made the energy drinks duo sweat for their money on the day. The Frenchman spoke afterwards about his afternoon at Suzuka.
We were writing you off last year, we didn’t think you’d have a seat, and here you are, on the podium. How does that feel?
Romain Grosjean: Well, much better than last year for sure. What a start! Terrific. From the past not the best memories here but today was just a very, very good race. The car was fantastic on Option tyres to start the race with and we did manage to pull away. Then the Red Bulls [caught] us a little bit I think, but generally with the work we did, we are the only ones able to follow those guys. We almost [caught] the Bull, I said to my engineer today – it’s a home race for my engineer and I think he’s very happy. Always very good to come here, always very proud of the fans and being on the podium at such a difficult track – it’s good.
Tell us about that start because it was a lightning one.
RG: Yeah, it was probably one of the best; I just spoke with Seb [about it]. When I dropped the clutch I said ‘whoah, whoah, that’s a good one, come on, come on go for it’. Amazing. Then when you’re leading it makes the thing easier on the first stint. We were very quick on the Option. The car was using less the tyres and I could open the gap. Unfortunately, it was less good on Prime than Option today for some reason, rather than yesterday when it was the opposite, so the pace dropped a little bit and Seb was really too quick for us. I think it would have been nice with Mark until the end of the race but we caught some slower cars, lapped cars, and they really blocked me a lot. I lost the position against Mark. I don’t know if I could have held him until the end but, yeah, it cost me, I think, quite a lot. Never mind, we were the only car to be able to follow them. We did not even think about racing them before the race and the strategy says that our target was Lewis, so, so far it was a pretty good race and for sure being ahead in the first corner helps quite a lot but we did a very good job to come back from a disaster Friday to have a very good Saturday and Sunday.
You were right in the middle of a backmarker battle right at the end there – there was a lot of traffic around. A little bit of sadness having been out in front and finishing third?
RG: I thought it was the day that the first victory was coming. Honestly on Option, I did struggle a little bit but then I could pull away [from] Mark and I said “our car is beautiful today, it’s gonna be good,” and then Mark pitted earlier than what we thought, we fitted the Prime [Hard] tyres – and the degradation was not the same anymore and it was making it harder to drive. I think I lost second with the Caterham in the middle stint when Mark [caught] me just before he pitted and then on the last few laps there were a lot of cars in front of us. I know it’s not easy for anyone to let us by but on such a nice big track it costs you a lot . As my tyres were really on the edge every small aero…wing perturbation will cost me a lot and at the exit of the chicane a little bit of wheelspin and Mark could go for it. So, a bit of a shame to lose the second position but never mind, I think the positives that I gain outweigh…were challenging them and that counts for us.
What do you think you still miss to get a victory: another car, another team, another strategy?
RG: From my side, I think, today, was a little bit of pace on the Hard tyre. We covered Mark on the first stop. It was two laps shorter than what we thought and then again, the second stop was just a little bit earlier than we thought because of the tyres’ age and so on. And I think we missed Friday, so we had to do a long run in FP3 to know how the tyres were going because from Friday we had no information from our long runs, we really struggled with the car, so we lost that information that we are normally pretty good on. Today the hard tyres didn’t behave as we expected and before the race, honestly, we said we’ll start on Option but then what’s going on in the second stint, we didn’t know if we had to fit Option or Prime and it was just an unknown. I think the Red Bull today was…we said in the strategy meeting that we never thought that we could beat them. So we are where we expected to be. Just sometimes, it’s a little bit of everything. Today [it] was not the luck missing, it was not the start, the driving, it was just a little bit of pace from the car. (FIA Media)
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