After a difficult start to the season, Romain Grosjean has found his form for Lotus and will be aiming for a fourth consecutive podium finish at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Frenchman has always been quick, but reckless, and his lack of consistency often cancelled out his natural aggression.
Perhaps it is only a coincidence, but since the announcement that Kimi Raikkonen will leave Lotus to drive alongside Fernando Alonso at Ferrari next year, Grosjean has become much more focused, securing third-place finishes in three of the past four races.
“I’m trying to improve myself every time, the car is getting there,” Grosjean said Thursday. “The start of the season was poor. It’s a bit of a shame when we look at what we are capable to do right now. Hopefully it’s going to be the case until the end of the season.”
The next step is to get a first career victory – although with Sebastian Vettel aiming for a seventh straight win that will be tough. “Clearly the blue cars [Red Bulls] are still a little bit quicker than we are, but we try to push them as much as we can,” Grosjean said. “Now that Seb has won the world championship, perhaps he will give one of us a chance to win.”
Grosjean’s performance at the Indian GP last weekend stood out. He started from 17th on the grid after Lotus’s gamble on sticking with medium tires backfired in the first qualifying session.
“It was certainly one of our best races. We misjudged our level of performance on the Saturday and [then] we took the right decision about the strategy, how to go for the race,” Grosjean said. “It was clearly not an easy one as I really had to first make the option tire last and then try to make the prime tire last for 47 laps.”
Grosjean’s performance perhaps didn’t get the full credit it deserved because it was overshadowed by Vettel securing his fourth straight title, but it confirmed that Grosjean is finally starting to mature into a more reliable driver.
Last season, he earned a reputation for the wrong reasons. His impatient driving from the grid angered fellow drivers, and he was given a one-race ban – and a stern warning from Lotus – after being blamed for a pile up at the Belgian GP that sent Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez off the track at the first corner.
This year started poorly as he retired from three off the first six races before bouncing back with a second-place finish at the Canadian GP in June.
Lotus has yet to decide on Raikkonen’s replacement for next season, but Grosjean is likely to be the No. 1 driver and should relish coming out of Raikkonen’s shadow. Even though they have raced for nearly two years together, Grosjean is no closer to getting to know the soft-spoken Finn – who is notoriously media-shy – away from the track.
“As a man, I would say, basically I don’t know him. He is with me as he is with you [the media],” Grosjean said. “Having him to learn [from] and to improve myself has been pretty good. But I don’t see him in different clothes to the ones we’re wearing right now.”