Romain Grosjean embarked on his first day on the job as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES athlete, and he loved what he felt on the racetrack.
Formula One veteran Grosjean is testing an Indy car for the first time today at Barber Motorsports Park in preparation for his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut Sunday, April 18 at the same 17-turn, 2.38-mile natural road course. After a morning of installation laps and a few quick runs, the 34-year-old already had a beaming smile on his face.
“It felt very normal,” he said. “It’s a different car, a different position, but apart from that, everything felt great and normal. I just need to get used to a new car. It reminds me of when I was jumping from Formula Renault to Formula 3 and GP2. So far, I’ve been really happy with it.
“The mechanical grip of the car has been really good. I can really understand why you can get the racing good. The way the team works is really good. It’s different, but I’m happy with that. Trying to adapt myself has been quite smooth. I think the more testing we have, the better it is, but I’m also very much looking forward for it to be the 17th and 18th of April to go racing.”
Grosjean will compete in all road-and-street course events this season in the No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda after spending the last nine years in F1. He said the challenges of driving an Indy car, such as the lack of power steering, were evident as soon as his first lap on track and persisted all morning.
“After the first run my biceps started hurting a bit, and I thought: ‘OK, OK. Now we’re talking,’” he said. “You really feel the car. I guess you can drive it a little bit more with your driving style with the way you apply the brake and your turning and so on. You can actually use different lines, whereas in Formula One you may be more stuck to the ideal line because of how the aerodynamics work.
“I made a mistake this morning, and I spun (in Turn 1). I was stuck in the gravel. (The track) has consequences, and you need to stay within the limits, which I always quite enjoy.”
Grosjean’s biggest surprise so far has been the openness of the INDYCAR paddock. Since he arrived, he has chatted with fellow competitors Sebastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato and others, who already have made the driver feel at home.
“When I came yesterday, I was quite surprised to see that the cars are being set up here, and there’s no closed garage or tents,” he said. “I really like it. You get to go into the pit lane, and I was talking to Sebastien Bourdais, and Takuma (Sato) came over, and we had a good chat next to his car. The talking is made on track, and whenever you remove your helmet it feels like everyone is friendly and likes to talk and chat.”
The Tuesday test marked the first time Grosjean has driven a race car since he escaped a fiery crash in the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix in late November 2020 with burns to his hands. Aside from minor issues, Grosjean said his hand performed as expected.
“It’s actually done very well,” he said. “I had a big snap on the last run (of the morning), and that was a bit painful. I expect those. I know it’s not fully recovered and is sensitive.”
Dale Coyne Racing with RWR is one of five teams participating in the private test today at Barber, joining AJ Foyt Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Team Penske. No live timing or video will be available because this is a private test. But stay tuned to INDYCAR.com and INDYCAR social media for coverage throughout the day.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES season will take the green flag at the Birmingham, Alabama, track in just under two months. The action can be seen live on NBC.