Renault F1 refugee Romain Grosjean has revealed that his sights are firmly set on securing a return to the grand prix grid next year, insisting that he 'deserves' to be there as his pace against double world champion Fernando Alonso over the second half of last season was 'far from being ridiculous' – and opining that he was simply 'in the wrong place at the wrong time'.
Grosjean was parachuted into the Enstone-based outfit to make his debut in the top flight in the European Grand Prix in Valencia in August, in-place of Nelsinho Piquet, who had been unceremoniously sacked off the back of a string of lacklustre showings and failures to score.
The Brazilian's replacement, though, would scarcely fare much better, proving unable to qualify any higher than twelfth or take the chequered flag any higher than 13th during his seven races in the cockpit, as the Swiss-born Frenchman encountered the same difficulties with the unwieldy and underperforming R29 as had Alonso campaign-long. Indeed, just a sole rostrum finish for the 22-time grand prix-winner – the driver held by some to be the very best in the field – perhaps demonstrated just how inefficient a car Renault's 2009 contender actually was.
Shortly after Grosjean's appointment, however – and almost certainly as a direct consequence of Piquet's abrupt mid-season dismissal – the French manufacturer found itself embroiled in the explosive 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal and sponsors scurried for the exit door.
With the leading management having left in disgrace, Alonso already Ferrari-bound and Renault itself selling a majority stake in the team to new owners Genii Capital, the overriding concern was to start over again with a completely fresh sheet of paper – meaning in reality, the 24-year-old Geneva native never really stood a chance.
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Grosjean explained in an interview with France Soir
. “With all the problems around the team, it wasn't easy – they wanted to make a clean sweep of the past.
“I want to come back in 2011. I'm not losing hope. When I see Fernando Alonso's results with Ferrari this year, I think I deserve a place on the grid. My pace was far from being ridiculous – I was never more than two or three tenths off him in qualifying.
“I'm still in contact with (new Renault F1 team principal) Eric Boullier. We like and respect each other professionally and, once in Europe, I will walk around the paddock to establish other contacts and see if this could unlock something.”
Grosjean has since signed to compete for sportscar squad Matech Competition in the inaugural FIA GT1 World Championship, a prospect he is clearly determined to make the most out of – and one that he has already begun in fine style, triumphing along with team-mate Thomas Mutsch in the Abu Dhabi curtain-raiser last weekend. However, the former GP2 Asia Series Champion's ultimate goal is clear.
“[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,” he told Abu Dhabi newspaper The National
, before adding in an interview with Gulf News Xpress
: “I was very close to Fernando, and Fernando is winning races today with a very good car. That's why I think I clearly have my place in Formula 1.”