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Grosjean 'wouldn't have bet a penny' on getting a podium

28 October 2013

Romain Grosjean's disappointment and astonishment at missing the cut at the end of Q1 in qualifying on Saturday at Buddh International Circuit was clear for all to hear on the radio communications when he was informed by the team he would be starting from 17th on the grid.

The team had gambled on a single run on the medium prime tyres, and it hadn't worked. "In hindsight, we made the wrong call with Romain,” trackside operations director Alan Permane admitted afterwards. "We expected him to progress quite comfortably through Q1 ... Unfortunately, this wasn't the case."

So what could Grosjean do on Sunday? The Frenchman himself didn't have any high hopes of success - even getting into the low end of the points would be problematic. As for getting on the podium - clearly, not a chance.

"I would not have bet a penny on me being on the podium today," Grosjean admitted after Sunday's race. "I wouldn't have bet a peanut on it. And it's just great - I think the karma was good today.

"I honestly thought in seventeenth I had not a very big hope of this," he added. "The best strategy, computer thing that we had was P4 - but that was taking that we had a very good start [and] a perfect race."

As it turned out, Grosjean didn't make any particularly dramatic gains off the starting grid. However, as other cars came in for very early stops to ditch the short-life soft option tyres as soon as possible, Grosjean continued to creep up the timing screens as he made his own set of tyres stretch 13 laps before pitting, by which time he'd been as high as fourth place. But after that he was back down in 15th place again for an extended run to the midpoint of the race.

"We did not have a very good start. I lost quite a lot of time behind [Sauber's Esteban] Gutierrez in the middle of the race who was quite... Yeah, defensive, let's put it that way," he said. "The race was all right. I tried to go through the field. It was tough until the end."

That seemed to seal Grosjean's fate - except that he had one more card to play, the team having decided to see whether the car could make the next 47 laps to the finish line without needing a second stop. It was an almost absurd Hail Mary attempt at a touchdown.

"We did a very brave strategy, as we did [in qualifying] - I think it was not the time to go safe and it paid off," he said. "I didn't know when the tyres were going to go off but the team did fantastic."

Slowly but surely, Grosjean started to climb up the timing screens again as other cars were forced to pit, all of them save for Force India's Adrian Sutil being forced into two or more stops during the race. And with each car taking to the pit lane, Grosjean inched up a further place in the positions.

On lap 41 he hit fourth place following Mark Webber's retirement. That left Sebastian Vettel out in the lead in a class of his own, followed by Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Grosjean's own Lotus team mate Kimi Raikkonen who was attempting the same single stop strategy, but who had pitted five laps earlier than Grosjean on lap 7. The Finn had experienced other problems, too.

"We ran maybe the first twenty laps with no brakes as they had overheated massively, so every time I got close to somebody I lost braking," Raikkonen said, revealing why in the closing stages of the race Grosjean was so much faster, quickly slicing through the gap between them on track until Grosjean was packed on the back of the fellow Lotus and clearly the faster of the two cars, worried that the Ferrari of Felipe Massa would hunt them both down before the end of the race.

Grosjean wanted past Raikkonen for the podium position; Raikkonen resisted, robustly, to the point where Grosjean was swept off the track at turn 4 with four laps remaining although actual contact was averted. After an exchange of words between Raikkonen and the Lotus pit wall, and with Raikkonen's tyres going from undriveable to positively suicidal, the Finn was finally forced to concede the position and ended up forced to make an additional pit stop before the finish.

"Kimi was in a difficult situation," explained Grosjean. "I went for the outside and he didn't see that point. I knew I had to be careful to my engine, I knew Massa had much fresher tyres behind so I didn't want to lose time. I lost a little bit of time – but never mind."

Crucially Grosjean didn't have to follow his team mate into the pits for a late tyre change, and he was able to stay a couple of seconds ahead of Massa all the way to the chequered flag to clinch that podium position after all. He could have made a lot of pennies - or peanuts - if he had decided to make that bet before the race.

"We are here on the podium and scored good points for the team and we still have a very strong car for the upcoming races," said Grosjean. "We're back on the podium - it's quite amazing from where we started," he beamed.

"Very proud to be here," he added once more, for good effect - and looking for all the world like a man who would now put very good money (or significant quantities of peanuts) on betting that he will still be there, with Lotus, for at least another 12 months to come.


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