Grosjean Tops Practice 1

Photo of Romain Grosjean by Walt Kuhn Indycar

Romain Grosjean led this afternoon’s Indycar practice at Road America with a lap of 1:47.681, beating Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden. The 45 minute session featured the Indycar debuts of Kevin Magnussen and Cody Ware. Ware ended the practice 22nd and Magnussen was 23rd. Oliver Askew, subbing for Rinus VeeKay, had the ninth fastest time.

Ryan Hunter-Reay led most of the session until Grosjean put down his quick lap on his next to last circuit. Points leader Pato O’Ward had the 11th quickest time today.

As we have seen all season, the top ten was split evenly between Honda and Chevrolet.

A second practice at 10:10 Central tomorrow morning will set the qualifying groups for Firestone Fast Six qualifying at 1:30 Central. A post qualifying session follows at 4:30 Central.

Ryan Hunter_Reay led most of the session
Points leader Pato O’Ward was 11th fastest

New Look

After a long construction delayed journey, I arrived at Road America around 2:30 Central time. I had a pleasant surprise at Gate 3. The gravel road is now paved, and there is a large, nice looking sign identifying the gate. I later noticed Gate 4 had similar improvements. In the past, the gate sign was inconspicuous and easy to pass by if you didn’t know what you were looking for. Signage all around the track is upgraded. The look is much improved.

The track also received a makeover. Turns 5, 6, and 14 have a new coat of asphalt.

Overall, Road America looks a bit nicer this year. The changes haven’t altered the character of the place at all, but they have enhanced it.

Grosjean Set for Oval Debut; News and Notes

A few noteworthy items as we head into the weekend at Detroit.

Romain Grosjean will run his first oval race at Gateway in August. Grosjean originally planned to run only the street and road course races, but had left Gateway open as a possibility. The run at the Madison, Illinois track may be a prelude for Grosjean to attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 next year.

Grosjean earned the pole for the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month, finishing second in the race after leading the most laps

Mid Ohio Paddock Passes on Sale

Mid Ohio will allow fans paddock access at the Honda Indy 200. The announcement yesterday said that paddock and pit passes are now on sale. Mid Ohio joins Detroit and Road America as tracks allowing fans paddock access as things slowly return to normal.

Detroit Unmasked

The Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit now has no mask requirement for fans while outdoors. Inside buildings, masks are required for unvaccinated people. The race initially had attendance limited to 20% of capacity, but that restriction is also no longer in effect. Race organizers have opened up more reserved grandstand seating, but they are still limiting the number of general admission tickets sold.

We may be seeing the end of fan restrictions as the series moves ionto the second half of the season.

Who Gets Race 17?

There are three options to replace the cancelled Toronto race- a double header at Mid Ohio, a double header at Gateway, or no replacement at all.

Mid Ohio makes the most sense since the track and Toronto have the same promoter, Green Savoree. Gateway is a good choice since that would give the series another oval race. Doing nothing might be what happens if a television window is not available for the additional race.

I think there will be a 17th race. Time is not on Mid Ohio’s side, but since the track hosted a double header on short notice last year, it could still happen.

Grosjean Pole- From Flames to Fame

Photo: Romain grosjean hug chief mechanic Olivier Boisson after winning the pole. Photo by Mike Silver

Romain Grosjean leaping from his burning car in Bahrain is finally put away. Grosjean won the pole for tomorrow’s GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He did not win the pole by default. Grosjean had to hold off two time series champion and multiple pole winner Josef Newgarden to achieve the top spot for the race. The pole is just the third all time for Dale Coyne racing and the first on a natural road course. Sebastien Bourdais won a pole on the oval at Phoenix in 2018. Mike Conway took the pole for Detroit Race 2 in 2016.

In a qualifying session which saw points leaders Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward struggle and pokle master Will Power cause a red flag in Round 2, Grosjean joined three other fast six newcomers- Conor Daly, Alex Palou, and Scott McLaughlin to fight for the pole along with Jack harvey and Newgarden.

“Amazing,” Grosjean said. “When I saw the (first qualifying) group I was in, I was like, ‘Oh, dear, if we can get out of the first group, we’re going to be OK,’ and we did. That last few laps, we were on it. What a day for us.

“I’m happier than I have been in a very long time.”

In the only other natural road course run this year, at Barber, Grojean started 10th and finished seventh. His getting to the Fast Six wasn’t much of a shock, but earning the pole was.

Notes on a Strange Day

The wierdness wasn’t reserved for qualifying. The practice sessions had some odd happenings as well. In session 1, Alex Palou’s team discovered a water leak before he got on the track. Palou missed the entire session. Palou bounced back to get in the Fast Six.

During the first practice we learned that Max Chilton and Carlin Racing withdrew from this weekend. Chilton was unable to return from England because of a travel issue. Today’s issue has no effect on their 500 entry.

Scott Dixon developed a clutch issue during the afternoon practice, Unlike Palou, he did not recover in qualifying and will start 16th. two spots ahead of Pato O’Ward. Dixon and O’Ward are first and second in points. Newgarden and Palou,, third and fourth in points, start second and fourth.

Juan Pablo Montoya looked quite uncomfortable in the third Arrow McLaren SP entry. He struggled to get the car through the final turns.

Conor Daly made the Fast Six for the first time. It has been a long time since Ed Carpenter racing has been in the Fast Six.

Newgarden and Palou were the only members of the Fast Six who have won a race. The series is on about as level a playing field as it has ever been.

Team Penske still does not have a pole this season.

A. J. Foyt Racing had a promising beginning to the season. All thee cars will start 20th or worse tomorrow.

Rookies Agree They Have a Lot to Learn

Photo of Romaiin Grosjean by Chris Owens, Indycar

Indycar’s 2021 rookie class is unusual. Three drivers, successful in other major disciplines, older than the typical first year driver, have decided to take the plunge into Indycar. Scott McLaughlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Romain Grosjean spoke to the media yesterday during Indycar’s content day. Unlike past years where some of the rookies have moved up from Indy Lights with some knowledge of the cars and driving style required, the three newcomers come from NASCAR, Australian Supercars, and Formula 1. Two have multiple championships in their previous series.

All three are happy with their progress during pre-season testing, but all admit they have a long way to go to be competitive in the Indycar series.

Scott McLaughlin. Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

McLaughlin summed up the steep learning curve.

, “There’s a lot of things I’ve got to get used to. For instance, even just driving a turbo car. I’ve never really done that before in Australia. For me, I’m learning boost levels, aero maps, trusting aero, aerodynamics through corners and stuff.”

Jimmie Johnson by Chris Owens, Indycar

Johnson talked about driving an Indycar.

“…the intensity of driving that car. It’s a monster. That’s the best way I can put it. There’s so much power,so much downforce, so much grip. It’s wild to drive.”

He also said that gettintg the final 10 to 15 percent woukld the hardest to reach.

“But that last little bit, that’s what the elite guys are so good at and chase their whole career. I don’t know if I’ll get to100 percent with the amount of years that I have to give this a try, but there’s still so many things I haven’t even experienced yet. I’ve never been on a red tire. I’ve just recently had a chance to drive a street circuit tire and understand how much more grip it has versus a traditional road course tire.When you look at the street course tracks, I won’t even be able to drive on one until the practice, the opening practice session that we have prior to qualifying.”

Grosjean noted the different driving style needed for an Indycar compared to a formula 1 machine:

“I think it’s the driving style. It’sfairly different between Formula 1 and INDYCAR. Does itcome from the tires, the car, from the aero, the mechanicalgrip? I don’t really know. I just found that it was different todrive and to go fast.That’s something I really adapted between Barber andLaguna. I think I’m going to the simulator tomorrow beforeflying home. I think we’ve got some good tests that wewant to do with Dale Coyne and Honda, get as muchknowledge as we can before we start the season.”

Grosjean has a good understanding of where he is as far as driving this season. In spite of his 20 year racing career, he said,

“But I need to remind myself I’m a rookie. Even though I got 20 years experience in racing, I’m a rookie. From the rolling start to the refueling to the racetracks, there’s many,many things to learn.We will take step by step. We’ll see how things are going. But the whole team has been great helping me to find my marks. Honda has been really helpful as well in getting me up to speed, telling me all the procedures. The team has been really good.”

In spite of their success, or perhaps because of it, in other series, the 2021 Rookie class has a realistic perspective on what they can achieve this season. I’m impressed that this trio has made the decision to try a new type of racing.

O’Ward Leads Laguna Seca Test; Grosjean 3rd Fastest

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

Pato O’Ward had the quickest time in Monday’s test at Weather Tech Raceway Monday. The private test The private test session included seven drivers from four teams. It was the first test day in an Indycar for Juan Pablo Montoya, who will drive for Arrow McLaren SP in the Indianapolis 500.

Montoya will be in car number 86 at Indianapolis. The number is a tribute to Peter Revson’s 1971 500 pole winning McLaren.

Romain Grosjean, who recently signed with Dale Coyne Racing with RWR, was third fastest on the day. Grosjean said in an earlier interview that this track was the one he was most looking forward to driving. he had Laguna Seca on a video game when he was younger.

Helio Castroneves also partticipated in the test for Meyer Shank Racing. Castroneves will drive in six races, including the 500, for Meyer Shank Racing.

Indycar’s next official test will at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 8-9 for all entries in the Indianapolis 500. There is no word yet if this test will be open for public viewing.

Results:

RANKCAR NO.DRIVERTEAMENGINEFAST LAPDIFF.TOTAL LAPS
15Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SPChevrolet71.293 83
218Ed JonesDale Coyne Racing With Vasser-SullivanHonda71.529-0.236104
351Romain GrosjeanDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda71.571-0.278109
67Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevrolet71.600-0.30792
560Jack HarveyMeyer-Shank RacingHonda71.688-0.39581
421Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevrolet71.797-0.504104
886Juan MontoyaArrow McLaren SPChevrolet72.219-0.92675
706Helio CastronevesMeyer-Shank RacingHonda72.812-1.51991

Grosjean’s First Indycar Test: ‘Felt Like Home’

Photo: Romain Grosjean getting ready for his first run in an Indycar. Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Tuesday Romain Grosjean got his first taste of Indycar as Dale Coyne Racing joined four other teams at Barber Motorsports Park in a preseason test. Barber is the site of the NTT Indycar Series opening race on April 18.Overall, he was happy with the day. This was Grosjean’s first time in a race car since his November accident in the Formula 1 race in Bahrain.

The ,main differences Grosjean noticed between Formula 1 and Indycar were the mechanical grip and the lack of power steering.

“I discovered the joy of not having a power steering wheel, and I don’t regret all those hours in the gym, but maybe I’ll do some more just in case,” Grosjean told the media.

“But I observed that the mechanical grip of the car is pretty outstanding and therefore you can try different lines in the corner and you can actually make it smooth in the way you want it.”

Grosjean had no issue with the aeroscreen.

Overall, he felt yesterday was a good learning day. He even learned something from his spin in turn 1.

“…basically I just went too fast in. When I was on the brake I also picked up the throttle which you do in high speed, but because it’s a mechanica ldiff it does open the diff when you do that, and therefore it makes the car lose, whereas in Formula 1 it would actually stabilize the car, so I would say it was a learning experience and then I didn’t do it anymore, and it was better.”

Grosjean’s next test day will be at Laguna Seca. it’s a track he looks forward to driving since he drove it on a video game when he was tounger.

Other teams testing today were Ed Carpenter racing in their first test of the year; Team Penske, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and A. J. Foyt Racing.

Who Was Fastest?

I have seen two different speed charts from yesterday. On One, Rinus VeeKay had the quick time. I learned that this chart was for times with drivers using push to pass. The other chart, without push to pass, had Sebastien Bourdais at the top. Grosjean was the slowest on both charts, as expected. He was, however, within a second of the leader on both sets.

Grosjean Eager for Chance to Compete

” I think the excitement comes in the fact that in Formula 1, after turn one, you normally know what’s going to be the race result just because you know the pace of the car, Mercedes is going to pull away,maybe the Red Bull is going to be there. Some things can change, but nowhere as much in INDYCAR.”

Romain Grosjean summed up his excitement for joining Indycar as the newest driver in the series. He will drive car 51 for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing. Grosjean watch more than 18 hours of Indycar races on YouTube over the Christmas holiday.

“Mid-Ohio 2018 I watched recently was Sebastien Bourdais had an issue in qualifying and started back of the field. He came back like a bullet from the gun and finished sixth just behind Scott Dixon. The race was not over. The strategy was the alternative one. He started on the black tire, went for the reds, just came back from the back. That’s not something you’re going to see in Formula 1 unless Mercedes qualified in the back, which never really happens. That was great to see.”

Dale Coyne talked about why the team had interest in Grosjean despite his lack of wins in F1.

“…we’re impressed what he did before he got to Formula 1. He won the GP2 series by 35 points. It was a year that I think nine drivers in that series made it onto Formula 1. It wasn’t a light year. He won six junior categories before that. He’s a winner. Formula 1, it’s difficult to be a winner unless you’re with the top two or three teams. So we’re going to get him over here with the fourth best team and show that he can still be a winner.”

Grosjean likes that in Indycar the driver has more input into the performance of the car.

“Well, this is something I’m very,very much looking forward to. I’ve been watching the races. The way you can follow the car in front of you, the way you can slide the tires, the way you can either try to play with your ‘push to pass’, the fact that the cars in qualifying are within 6/10ths of each other. This is all really exciting.You need to get the details right and so on. I think, yes, as you say, you don’t have the differential you can move, you don’t have the recovery and all the shaping and the braking, the systems you can have in Formula 1.I think the racing, yes, the car a little bit slower, but the racing looks much better from everything I’ve been seeing.”

Grosjean realizes he still has a lot to learn, and he wants to start sending his engineer, Olivier Boisson, data from iRacing to see if he has the right approach.

“I also told him that I can run on iRacing the INDYCAR. I can send him the data so he can see if it’s completely off the reality or not. I can learn the circuits in that aspect.”

The last five years of Foirmula 1 struggles habven’t dampened Grosjean’s enthusiasm for racing. h eis very excited to try a more competitive form of the sport in the United States.

Grosjean Joins Coyne/ Ware for Road/Street Courses

Romain Grosjean will run the road and street courses in car 51 for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing in 2021. The former F1 driver escaped serious injury in a fiery crash at the Formula 1 race in Bahrain in November. He had severe burns to his hands.

Grosjean began his Formula 1 career with Lotus in 2011. He had 10 podium finishes and was in the top 10 in the season standings in 2012 and 2013. The last five years Grosjean drove for Haas F1, a team that struggled constantly. He is looking forward to racing in a more competitive series.

Grosjean’s first test will be February 22 at Barber Motorsports Park, site of the NTT Indycar Series opener April 18.

Grosjean becomes the sixth former F1 driver in Indycar. He joins Sebastien Bourdais, Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton, Takuma Sato, and Marcus Ericsson in the series.

“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, Grosjean said.”

Grosjean said it was a familty decision to not run the ovals this year, but he hasn’t completely ruled out running at Gateway.

“If I were 25 and single with no kids, I’d run the ovals,” he said.

Team owner Dale Coyne is thrilled with his new driver.

“We’ve been talking to Romain for some time now, even before his accident at Bahrain. 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.”

Team co-owner Rick Ware added, “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.”

Ware said the team will announce its oval drivers and sponsors in a couple of weeks. it sounds as though there may be multiple drivers in the 51 for the ovals.

A third car, number 52, is entered for the Indianapolis 500, and “probably 4-5 more races,” according to Coyne. He has no plans for a third full time team.

Coyne begins testing at Barber Motorsports Park February 22 and will also test at Laguna Seca March 1. Coyne said the team will have four test days before the first race at barber April 18.

Back later with some quotes from the teleconference.

Grosjean, Perez Looking for Work; Indycar Has Openings

Sergio Perez jubilant after winning the Sakhir Grand Prix

Yesterday was just one week after Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash at Bahrain. With all that happened in Formula 1 since then, it seems as if more time than that has passed. After last week’s race, winner Lewis Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 and missed yesterday’s race. George Russell, who drives for Williams, replaced Hamilton and did a superb job, only to be thwarted by a tire mix up. Sergio Perez led Racing Point to the team’s first double podium and his first win in Formula 1 in one of the most exciting Grand Prix in a long time. The race resembled an Indycar race at times.

In a Twitter video early Sunday, Grosjean told fans that he would not be in shape to drive in the season’s final race at Abu Dabi next weekend. Grosjean is not returning to Haas F1 and has no prospects in the series. Perez will not return to Racing Point and is out of a job after the Abu Dabi race. Where might the two end up? Indycar?

There has been speculation that Grosjean is in talks with A. J. Foyt and possibly another team about driving next year. Foyt is still seeking to fill the seat in the 4 car. I have not heard Perez mentioned in conjunction with an Indycar ride, but he would be a great addition to the series.

With Perez and Pato O’Ward both in Indycar, the case for the series to hold a race in Mexico in 2022 is much stronger. I think a Mexican race would be a strong draw. But who will Perez drive for?

As far as I know the following Indycar seats are open:

Coyne-2

Foyt-1, possibly 2, but one of those will go to Dalton Kellett if he can fully fund it.

Carlin- possibly 1 and the oval portion of the 59

Carpenter- 1 road/street ride in the 20. Conor Daly might fill that role again unless he can find funding for a third Carpenter full time car.

My guesses right now? Grosjean to Foyt and Perez to Coyne. Pairing Sebastien Bourdais with another French driver who could learn from him just sounds like a good move.

Perez seems like the type of driver that is attractive to Coyne. Coyne tends to find drivers with little to no Indycar experience, and somehow manages to wring some success out of them. The key is funding, as it would be with Coyne’s second car.

Bottom Line: Two Formula 1 drivers need rides for 2021; Indycar has spots. Let’s see what happens.