An interview with GP2 Asia champion, Romain Grosjean
The first ever GP2 Asia Series Champion, ART GP driver Romain Grosjean, wrapped up the crown last Sunday after the penultimate round of the season. With two races left to run in Dubai next weekend, the Frenchman has an insurmountable lead and here he talks about his recent success and the challenges to come.
Romain, after being crowned the GP2 Asia Series’ first Champion, how do you feel?
Good, but weird because we won in the strangest way: I was declared champion even though I had to retire from the sprint race… You always prefer to win a title with a victory. Still, it enhances our motivation and confidence for the GP2 Series which will start in a few weeks. However, the GP2 Asia Series is not over and we will work hard in order to finish it with a win in Dubai this week and get prepared for the next championship.
Was it important for you to become Champion in front of the F1 paddock?
Of course since F1 is my dream and my goal. It was important to show that I’m competitive. I proved that I can be fast and ready to fight in any circumstances. Our next step is to develop the new GP2/08 car in order to try and get as good results with it as with the old car.
Can you tell us exactly what happened on Sunday in the sprint race?
I took the lead after one lap and pulled away, but then, I lost the brakes at the back. All of a sudden, the wheels were blocked. I tried to stay on track as long as possible, but it became too dangerous and I had to retire. It’s a real shame because I was so close to having the perfect weekend and score 20 points.
How would you summarize your season?
I entered the competition a rookie. I always said that the GP2 Asia Championship was the best way for me to learn more about the series and gain some experience. I’m lucky to be part of a team that I know quite well from F3 Euroseries: I know how they work and it helped me a lot starting from the very first race. After four days of testing in Dubai, I snatched my first pole position. Then, during the race, I had to pit for the first time and it all went great. I knew I had the car to claim victory. But, the win in the sprint race was a surprise. With 19 points scored in the first meeting, I was comfortably leading the championship and it gave me some confidence. In Sentul, we had a more difficult time. First of all, I made a mistake during qualifications. Then, in the feature race, we could have fought for victory, but we had a problem during the pit-stop. On top of that, we experienced some mechanical problems. We had been expecting more from our performance in Indonesia. Therefore, when we arrived in Malaysia, we had great hopes and it seemed at first that we would repeat what had happened in Dubai, but I stalled on the grid… When I reflect on this, I think it’s part of my apprenticeship too. After the red flag, I started from last and I almost could have won if I hadn’t had been touched. I finished 9th and was so disappointed… The following day, I finished 2nd. It was important for me to prove that I know how to properly overtake and come back. And, moreover, this second place is what allowed me to win the championship.
Did you really expect to be at this level of performance?
Frankly, yes. I know that it surprised a lot of people, but my opinion is that this car is perfect for me: my engineer and I work closely together and we understand each other. I always knew that I was at the wheel of a perfectly balanced car and all I had to do was concentrate on my driving. When I have a good feeling with a car, I feel really strong and I take risks.
People are going to ask you if you believe that you can repeat such a great performance in the GP2 Series…
And I will cautiously answer that this will not be the case. Our first task is to develop the new car. This will be our main focus at the beginning of the season. Plus, there will be some extremely competitive and experienced drivers with us in the GP2 Series on top of people like Senna, Valles, Petrov or Chandhok. Many of them can win the title. It will be a different environment. Once again, I will be a rookie with a lot to learn, starting with the tracks! With the Asia Series, I gained valuable experience, but I’m still learning.
You don’t think you will be the man to beat then?
I think I’m more of an outsider. Zuber, Maldonado, my teammate Filippi or Pantano for example: these are men to beat. They have the experience. I’m here to spice things up a little for them.