Buoyed by his performance at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean believes he is closer than ever to claiming a maiden F1 victory with the Lotus team.
Although the final result only shows him as finishing in sixth position at the Hungaroring, it belies the fact that he was a factor throughout practice, topping the Saturday morning session, before taking third on the grid behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. He then battled with the German before a drive-thru' penalty for putting all four wheels off the road while passing Felipe Massa dropped him down the order.
The performance, which followed a run to third place at the Nurburgring three weeks earlier, marked an upturn in Grosjean's season after back-to-back retirements in Spain and Monaco and non-scoring results from Montreal and Silverstone, and the mercurial Frenchman believes that, with his form returning, the top step of the podium cannot be far away.
“For sure, we've had some difficult moments and maybe the results haven't always been what the team deserved, but the potential for top finishes has always been there,” he insisted in an interview on the official Lotus team website, “We proved in Germany and Hungary that we can compete right at the front of the grid and I think, if we can continue to improve at the same rate, we will be looking pretty good for the remaining nine races.
“I'm feeling more and more comfortable in the car every time I drive it, which is certainly a good sign looking forwards. After our performance in the last few races, I honestly believe my first win is now just around the corner.”
Unsurprisingly, the fraught Monaco weekend remains the low point of Grosjean's season to date, with questions again being raised about his position in the team following no fewer than three crashes in as many days, including a terminal rear-ending of Daniel Ricciardo at the chicane.
“Monaco was not my best weekend, that's no secret,” he conceded, “The pace was there but, for one reason or another, I just didn't put everything together when really a strong result was definitely achievable. I still owe the mechanics and composites guys a drink for that - hopefully it will be some victory champagne later in the season...”
By contrast, a more recent memory sticks in Grosjean's mind as his highlight of 2013 – although he admits that, in the circumstances, he's not sure he can count it as such.
“I would like to say the pass on Felipe in Budapest – which, at the time, I thought may have been the best of my career so far – but, of course, with the penalty, I suppose it's not the same,” he sighed, “The podium in Germany would have to be my next choice; not just because it was a great result for the team, but because we were genuinely fighting for the win right to the end, which was a pretty good feeling.
Heading into the summer break, Grosjean sits eighth overall based on six points finishes in ten races, but trails team-mate Kimi Raikkonen by six places and 85 points as the Finn continues to lead the pursuit of Vettel at the top of the table. As such – and despite rumours that Raikkonen could be headed to either Red Bull or Ferrari next season, a first win would be useful for Grosjean's long-term F1 prospects...