F1 returnee Romain Grosjean
admits that he has been taken aback by the amount of interest his signing by the Lotus team has generated, but is determined to give the media a lot more to write about that during his abortive first foray into the top flight.
Grosjean was ushered into the then Renault
line-up as the Enstone team reeled from the fallout of 'crashgate', replacing Nelson Piquet Jr
alongside double world champion Fernando Alonso
in a squad struggling on track as well as off it. Although his pace suggested that he would be at home in 2009, the Frenchman's penchant for incident failed to impress those paying his wages, and he was unceremoniously dropped at the end of the year.
Since then, he has worked diligently to get another chance, racing in GTs and winning the 2010 AutoGP title despite missing the opening round, before returning to GP2 with the singular goal of adding another accolade to his resume last year. After cruising to the crown, Grosjean was at the head of the queue to partner former world champion Kimi Raikkonen
- himself returning from a two-year absence - in the rebranded Lotus line-up, but was still shocked to see how many column inches that generated, especially in his F1-starved homeland.
"I'm surprised that so much was made of it in France, but it makes me happy," he conceded before heading for his first grand prix since finishing 18th and last at the 2009 season finale in Abu Dhabi, "I'd prefer to be in this position than having no attention and not being in F1! It's good that people are paying attention to what we're doing – it's a good sign [and] I hope it continues. The car looks good for the season ahead so that creates more attention. We're all very excited."
The early signs have indeed been promising for Grosjean and Lotus, after the Frenchman shared the team's run of fastest times in pre-season testing with his more experienced team-mate. However, after last year's Lotus-Renault also starred ahead of the opening race, only to sink spectacularly as the year went on, no-one at Enstone is making any predictions, least of all the newest member of the squad.
"I'm looking forward to Australia and I feel very comfortable with the team," he noted, "It's been fantastic throughout testing and we're all working well together. Of course, we had a third less of pre-season testing than we expected, which was not quite the original plan, but the small issue we had in the first Barcelona test can even be seen as a good experience. Everyone worked twice as hard to return to Barcelona the following week and show that we are strong for the season ahead, which I think we are.
"My target is to give my best every time I'm in the car; to get the best from the car and to get the best from myself. I want to make the least amount of mistakes possible. I want to get points at every opportunity. I don't set myself a target of a particular position, I just want to do my best and do my job as well as I can so I can bring some good points to the team."
Despite not having driven the Albert Park
circuit in anger, and not having a simulator to call on at Enstone, Grosjean is optimistic that he can perform to the fullest of his ability, even of the weekend is a wet one.
"I've been watching a lot of in-car videos from the on-board camera, and I've spent a lot of time with my engineers looking at the data from the track from last season," he revealed, "I'll be running as much as possible in the first free practice session to learn the circuit, get some mileage and build some knowledge of the track, [but], for sure, I'm looking forward to having access to the simulator once it goes live very soon...
"The track is what it is – it will improve but that only helps you. You don't particularly feel it too much in the car, you just see it in better lap times. The grip level improves and better lap times come to you – and you soon get used to better lap times! What I saw from the onboard camera from previous years is the track looks good and it looks fun. I hope it will suit the E20.
"Brazil 2009, in free practice three, [was the last time in an F1 car in the wet], and it feels like a long time ago! I'm ready if the track is more slippery, and I'll try to make the best of it. I like racing in the wet, so maybe it will be a bit of an advantage for me...."