x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Grosjean looks for happy racing at Yas

His last appearance on the track ended in a disappointing 18th finish and proved to be his final race for Renault in Formula One.

GT1 driver Romain Grosjean with his Ford GT car during a practice session.
GT1 driver Romain Grosjean with his Ford GT car during a practice session.

ABU DHABI // Romain Grosjean does not have fond memories of his first appearance at Yas Marina Circuit. In the final race of a tumultuous season for Renault - which ended with Flavio Briatore, the managing director, and Pat Symonds, the engineering chief executive, resigning after the 'crash-gate' saga. Grosjean could only steer his R29 to a hugely disappointing 18th after 54 gruelling laps of the capital's track.

Little did he know, but it proved to be his final race for the team. Renault's quest for a fresh start resulted in Grosjean, who was only driving because Nelson Piquet Jr lost his drive, being cast aside for the 2010 season. Although it took time, opportunity finally knocked again for the 23-year old who will hope for a better experience at Yas Marina when the GT1 World Championships starts. "It's always good to be back on a race track," admitted Grosjean. "I drove the car for the first time [Wednesday] morning and it is working quite well."

The fact that GT cars are inferior in terms of speed to their F1 equivalents does not concern Grosjean. "It's too complicated to compare cars which are completely different," he said. "But the circuit is still the same, it's exactly the same track we used in Formula One. Left is left, right is right. There are four wheels and a steering wheel." His previous liaison with Yas will count for very little, he insisted. "I had an advantage for the first five testing laps but everyone is learning it now," he said. "It is not the most complicated track to learn."

The presence of Mika Salo and Karl Wendlinger, both fellow ex-F1 drivers, in the GT1 entry list will provide a fascinating subplot. Scarred by his brief flirtation with F1, Grosjean is content just to be driving competitively again. "[Renault] was in a very complicated situation and I don't like to go back too much to that story, but in the end I am very happy with the job I did and I think I should have my place in Formula One," he revealed, adding: "This year in a GT1 it is a completely new experience for me, but it's good experience for me for the future."