By: Spencer Neff
April 12, 2021
This year, the NTT IndyCar Series will see one of its most intriguing rookie classes in recent memory.
Although Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin is the only driver slated to run the full 17-race schedule, he will be joined by some impressive competition. In our first 2021 IndyCar Rookie Preview, IndyCar1909 profiles Dale Coyne Racing with RWR’s Romain Grosjean.
Following a lengthy career in Formula 1, the popular racer will make his first IndyCar start in this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Before his debut, here’s a look at Grosjean’s career to this point
After beginning his karting career at the age of 16 in 2000, the Geneva-born racer of French-Swiss descent moved to open-wheel racing in 2003. Grosjean dominated the Renault 1.6 Swiss Championship, winning all 10 races with Advance Racing. In 2004, he earned a victory during his debut season in the Formula Renault 2.0 Championship with SG Formula.
For 2005, he picked up 10 victories en route to the season title and moved on to the Formula 3 Euro Series. In 2006, Grosjean notched a podium appearance with Signature-Plus. By 2007, he switched to ASM Formule 3 and would net six victories and four pole positions, winning the championship.
In 2008, Grosjean contested the GP2 Season with ART Grand Prix, winning the inaugural GP2 Asia Series (four victories) and earning two more race wins during the GP2 season. By season’s end, he parlayed the success into a test driver role with the Renault Formula 1 team.
At the 2009 European Grand Prix, Grosjean made his Formula 1 debut on the Valencia Street Circuit in Spain, starting 14th and finishing 15th. During his seven Grands Prix with the team, he earned a best start of 12th (Italian GP) and a best finish of 13th (Brazilian GP).
Following his debut in Formula 1, Grosjean became test driver for Pirelli, the series’ tire manufacturer. During this time, he also began a stint in sports car racing, as he earned two victories in the FIA GT1 World Championship with Matech Competition, while also winning four races and the Auto GP title with DAMS Racing.
In 2011, Grosjean earned the GP2 and GP2 Asia Series championships with DAMS on the strength of six total wins and four pole positions. Ultimately, he would return to the Renault Formula 1 team in 2012.
Return to F1
At the opening Australian Grand Prix, he qualified third. Later that year, he earned a career-best finish of second at the Canadian Grand Prix and started second at the Hungarian Grand Prix. In 2013, his best finish would be equaled during the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
After 10 podium finishes in 85 Grands Prix with Renault, Grosjean moved to the fledgling Haas F1 for the 2016 season.
In their debut at Melbourne’s Australian Grand Prix, he finished sixth after starting 19th on the grid and followed that up with a fifth-place finish at Bahrain. In 2018, Grosjean recorded the constructor’s best Grand Prix result to date as he finished fourth in the Austrian Grand Prix.
During the 2020 season, he announced it would be his last in Formula 1. In the Bahrain Grand Prix, he was involved in a violent crash and suffered burns to hands and additional injuries to his ankles. Grosjean would miss the final two races of the season.
In January, Grosjean was announced by Dale Coyne Racing with RWR as the driver of the No. 1 entry for road and street courses.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity to race in the United States in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES,” Grosjean exclaimed.
“I had different options in front of me for this coming season and choosing to go IndyCar Racing was definitively my favorite one. Although, I’m not ready yet to take on the ovals! IndyCar has a much more level playing field than what I have been used to in my career so far. It will be exciting to challenge for podiums and wins again. My left hand is still healing, but we are just about ready to get back into the race car and to start this next chapter of my career.”
Although Grosjean has since admitted that he is open to participating in the August 21 event in World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, his schedule will consist of the road and street courses for now.
“We’ve been talking to Romain for some time now, even before his accident at Bahrain,” Team Owner Dale Coyne noted in the announcement.
“He has shown interest in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for the past several months and we’re very happy that he has chosen to pursue his career with us and excited to welcome a driver with his pedigree to America, the Series and our team. We feel that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Series.”
Pietro Fittipaldi, Haas’ reserve/test driver and Grosjean’s substitute during 2020 will drive the No. 51 on the ovals.
“We’re thrilled to be entering our first full season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing with Dale Coyne Racing, and to have a driver of the caliber of Romain Grosjean to run the street and road courses makes it that much more exciting for us. We’re looking forward to this season,” Team Co-Owner Rick Ware added in their February 3 announcement.
Grosjean will become the latest driver to make the switch from F1 to IndyCar as he starts the next chapter of an accomplished career.
Header Image By Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR