Mar.22 (Lotus) Australia may not have had the dream race Romain Grosjean had hoped for, as he qualified in third place on his return to the top tier of the sport but an altercation on the second lap left his Lotus E20 worse for wear – his race was over very early, but he had definitely left his mark.
Grosjean talks about Melbourne and looks ahead to this weekend’s Malaysian grand prix at Sepang where he has previously raced in the GP2 Asia Series and which the likable Frenchman rates as one of his favourite circuits
Firstly, let’s talk about qualifying in Australia – that was quite some result…
Romain Grosjean: It was like a dream come true. I only really discovered the Albert Park in the dry in the morning as we’d had rain on practice day and I’d never driven the track before. When I heard my qualifying position on the radio, I just could not believe it!
What happened for you in the race – it didn’t go quite to plan…
RG: To begin with the start wasn’t very good. Then Pastor (Maldonado) hit my car on lap three and that was it, my race was over. From what I saw he braked far too late, and came across to hit my right front wheel which broke the steering.
Was there anything different you could have done?
RG: I made sure to be careful through the opening laps but I can’t control the other drivers and there was no way I could have avoided it. I can’t move all the way into the gravel just to give someone space; I’m not driving a 4×4! When you’re overtaking someone you have to leave at least enough space for that car to remain on the track and this was not the case here.
The good news is that the car looks good in terms of performance. Does this give you confidence going to Malaysia?
RG: The car is performing very well. I was keeping pace with the guys in front of me and was pushing to get past so with a bit more luck I think we could have achieved a great result. I’m disappointed for the team because they deserved better having worked so hard to give us a strong car.
Are there any specific improvements or developments you want from the E20?
RG: To be honest the car was working very well over the weekend in Australia. There are always small improvements you can make but there’s nothing major I could point to right now which is always a good thing! I have a strong relationship with the team after winter testing; we’ve built up a good level of understanding and I know if there are areas where we can find time I can trust the guys to find them. It’s a great feeling having a team behind you who all work for each other and are fighting in the same direction, during the good times and bad.
Back to back races always put an extra strain on the team, especially when heading to a climate like that of Malaysia. How do you plan to recover and prepare for the next race?
RG: There are a few things that help in these situations. Firstly, it’s important to continue your training regime as normal, no matter how much you may want to just sleep! Then the key is to adjust your body to the time difference and climate, particularly the latter in Malaysia where the heat and humidity make it one of the most difficult races of the year physically.
Unlike Melbourne last weekend, the Kuala Lumpur venue is one you are familiar with already. What do you think of the circuit?
RG: Sepang is probably my favourite track. I raced there in 2008 as part of the GP2 Asia Series and I really loved the circuit. It’s nice and wide, with fast flowing corners and a lot of undulation which makes it great fun to drive. The last corner is a tricky one, but I enjoy everything about racing here. Well, maybe not the heat and humidity, but at the end of the day it makes it just another challenge for the drivers! I’m really looking forward to it. I believe we can achieve some positive results this season, hopefully starting in Malaysia.