In his first article for F1 Paddock Pass, our newest member Michael Howard takes a look at Romain Grosjean and asks the obvious question: will Grosjean ever get the chance to drive for the Maranello marque… or has his time at Haas put the brakes on his rising value?
It has almost been two years since Romain Grosjean made the switch from Lotus (the one’s who used to be Renault, and before that Benneton and Toleman – but now Renault again… anyway) to Formula 1’s newest racing team Haas.
This was a brave move for Grosjean. Even though he had spent the majority of the last two years struggling at Lotus, with a weak Renault engine in 2014 and the team going through difficult financial struggles in 2015. Moving to a new F1 team that had no prior experience in the sport was a gamble. However, a key ace that Haas had when negotiating with Grosjean was the connections that Haas was building with Ferrari.
In the world of F1, this deal with Ferrari caused many to wonder whether the Italian giant were using Haas. JamesAllenOnF1 online reported at the time that independent teams had been furious with how Haas were reporting back to Ferrari on how the parts they had bought from them performed in the wind tunnel. Some teams argued that this was just allowing Ferrari additional testing data without breaking the regulations.
However, for Romain Grosjean this shared partnership brought promise for his career. The BBC reported in 2015 that Grosjean had joined the American outfit in a bid to win favour with Ferrari, hoping that they would consider him to replace Kimi Raikkonen for 2017. Although Grosjean did have a good 2016 season with Haas, a highlight being a point’s finish in his first race at the Australian Grand Prix, he was unable to earn the Ferrari drive. Raikkonen was retained and Grosjean made the decision to remain with Haas for 2017
Two years on his prospects still look unlikely. Grosjean is still a quick and impressive talent. His P6 at the Austrian Grand Prix this year was well earned after a strong P7 in qualifying. However, the team have struggled with developing the car and Grosjean has grown frustrated with the lack of improvement in the car. This means that he hasn’t been able to competing more with the car than with the best. His Baku weekend saw him face genuine fear as the team couldn’t get the brakes working properly, terrifying when you’re achieving 321kmh on the main straight.
Grosjean has also had to face the prospect of Ferrari being interested in other drivers.
These are some that are possible/rumoured to have the seat in 2018:
At the time of writing this article, rumours are that Raikkonen is set to be retained for 2018. In a recent interview Sergio Marchionne, when asked about how likely it was for the Finn to be retained, he stated “probably better than 50%…” This is still not a guarantee but still seems the likeliest at this time.
Lewis Hamilton has also been rumoured to move to Marinello for 2018. For a while now we have heard rumours that Mercedes are attempting to sign Sebastian Vettel for 2018. With Hamilton and Vettel’s rivalry it would seem unwise to pair them together. A move to Ferrari would also mean that the Italian team would most likely retain Raikkonen as it would be unwise to compete with a completely brand-new line up.
Although you may not have heard any rumours. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Ferrari make a bid to sign the Mexican driver. In his past few years at Force India he has achieved five podium finishes. No-one can forget his incredible P3 at the Russian Grand Prix in 2015, where he nursed a set of Soft tyres 41 laps, an incredible drive. Perez again has been consistently finishing in the points this season and seems to have matured as a driver since his tricky year with McLaren in 2013. He, interestingly, is also out of contract this season, and although Force India want to keep him on at the team, Perez has come through the Ferrari young driver academy so can’t be considered to be off the radar.
Although you may not have heard of Leclerc yet, I assure you, you will one day. This 19-year-old Ferrari young driver has been impressing the motorsport world. Notably his Formula 2 drive in Bahrain where he pitted from the lead, emerged in 12th and fought back to 1st with only 8 laps remaining. At this point in time he is leading the championship by 50 points. Leclerc has also been testing for the Ferrari team in Hungary this week and notched up an impressive 98 laps round the Hungaroring. A rising talent and will definitely be a forced to be reckoned with in the future. As early as 2018, I think unlikely but still a solid choice.
And for Romain?
Well we know that Grosjean won’t be joining Ferrari in 2018, as he has recently signed a contract to stay with the Haas team for next season. So Grosjean has not done enough this season to impress the bosses at Marinello.
Also, worryingly for Grosjean, Motorsport.com reported today that Ferrari are considering moulding Sauber into a feeder team, allowing their young drivers a place to compete. If this is true this could spell disaster for Grosjean as he might find himself in the wrong Ferrari finder team.
At this current stage in his career Romain Grosjean may be finding himself in a limbo situation. The Haas is not a winning car at the moment and is unlikely to be in the near future. His Ferrari dreams do seem bleak, but with a future secured for 2018, Grosjean must now work harder than he ever has before. This is one of the most crucial points of his career, unless he can impress, he may find himself never getting the opportunity.