While Romain Grosjean was celebrating
the official confirmation that he would be back in F1 next season, the French driver's delight was shared by all his former team mates at the DAMS GP2 team with whom he clinched dominating titles in the European and Asian GP2 Series championships this year.
His success in GP2 this season was a major factor in making Grosjean the leading candidate to take the remaining seat at Lotus Renault GP alongside former world champion Kimi Raïkkönen. But with Vitaly Petrov, Bruno Senna and even Robert Kubica also in the frame for the remaining race seat at LRGP, Grosjean was kept in suspense until the final moment.
His former boss at DAMS, team chief executive Jean-Paul Driot, was in no doubt that Grosjean was the right choice and that the 25-year-old's performance in GP2 this season should have more than proved the point.
"I've always believed in his enormous potential," said Driot after the confirmation came through. "I'm very proud to have personally contributed to relaunching Romain's career," he said, adding that he was happy that Grosjean should now "find himself back where he belongs - in F1!"
The French DAMS team has a good track record in developing drivers for F1 service - including Kazuki Nakajima (who drove for Williams in 2008/9) and Kamui Kobayashi (current Sauber F1 driver.) DAMS also helped bring on Belgian racing driver Jérôme d'Ambrosio, who raced for Marussia Virgin Racing in 2011 but who has now been usurped by another GP2 alumni
- Frenchman Charles Pic - who has been racing for Barwa Addax in the feeder series this year.
It was a rather different situation from usual facing Grosjean in 2011. Rather than looking at a chance to break into F1 for the first time, he had already made seven Grand Prix starts in 2009 when he was a late-season replacement for Nelson Piquet Jr. following an acrimonious split with Renault. Grosjean had little time to prepare and also had to contend with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso as his team mate, and when he failed to make an immediate impression the team opted to replace him with Vitaly Petrov (another GP2 alumni) in 2010.
Grosjean eventually returned to the GP2 series late in 2010 as a way of rebuilding his confidence and his reputation, but he knew it would take a championship performance of absolutely incontrovertible dominance if he were ever to be in contention for an F1 seat again: and so that's exactly what he achieved.
Grosjean claimed a staggering 12 podiums out of 22 races during 2011 with DAMS, including six race wins. He also started from pole position on three occasions and clinched the bonus points for fastest laps on new fewer than six occasions on his way to an emphatic GP2 championship clean-sweep.
"[Romain] learned a lot during his collaboration with DAMS in his role as team leader, and he was also heavily involved on the technical side," said DAMS in a team statement celebrating Grosjean's return to F1. "The whole team is delighted and would like to wish Romain the same success with Kimi Raïkkönen in F1 as he enjoyed in GP2."
LRGP managing director Eric Boullier spoke of how impressed he'd been with Grosjean's performance overall this season. "Romain has shown a lot of maturity in the past twelve months both through his GP2 Series victory and his development as third driver with us," he said.
Grosjean agreed that his 2011 season had been key to his chances. "I feel that my successful season in GP2 Series has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport," he said. "I will not disappoint and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been possible."
Now Grosjean will find himself alongside another former champion in Kimi Raïkkönen, and will need to establishing himself quickly within the team if recent history is not to repeat itself again in 2012. But he's not phased, and clearly believes that the stars are far better aligned for him in F1 in 2012 then they ever were in 2009.
"To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and returning to F1 will be a great experience," he insisted. "There's a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next year's car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity."