After Romain Grosjean enjoyed his first experience with the Haas VF-18 during pre-season testing in Spain, he sat down with to discuss his position in Formula 1 from headline-grabbing youngster to an experienced head and what he wants from the future of the sport.

Hi Romain, you’ve had the first feeling with the Haas VF-18 ahead of the new season and you are becoming one of the senior members on the grid. Does it feel like it?

Romain Grosjean: Yes and no. Age-wise and experience yes but I feel a long way from finishing my career. I’ve got good experience now which is great and it is very important to the team as it isn’t something you can’t buy but I don’t feel old either.

Using that experience for your third season at Haas do you approach this year with a different mindset?

RG: Yes, you learn how Formula 1 works through the year because when you come from the junior series when you have a chance to win every year as everyone has the same car, but then you get to F1 and things are a bit different. If you don’t have the Ferrari or the Mercedes or maybe the Red Bull it is very difficult to win the race. I guess knowing a little bit more about that and I am trying to use all my experience to help the team to improve and get better, and also applying that to myself to get better, so I’ve got more experience but still super-excited to go to Melbourne.

Last year you were appointed as a director for the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association taking over from Jenson Button. How’s that experience been?

RG: It has been really good, I’ve been working really closely with Alex Wurz and Sebastian Vettel trying to get every driver on board – we’ve achieved that now – and we are working on projects for go-karts, on track and helping with everything we can. It is very interesting. One of the main ones has been go-kart safety as they are little kids. I know Alex has been pushing really hard on that one. Obviously, we gave feedback on the Halo and things like that, working as well with the FIA on the Stewards decisions to try and find what is the limit and what is right or wrong – which is very difficult. I was in Geneva on February 10th at the FIA Stewards meeting which was very good and really interesting to share with those guys what our point of view is and how we can improve everyone.

What was your motivation behind taking up the role with the GPDA?

RG: I took it up because the sport has given me something and I’ve got to give back. When Alex asked me if I wanted to do it I said yes and on top of that you’ve got to be voted by the other drivers which was amazing as well. It has been a good experience and sometimes I have a very different viewpoint to Seb and Alex so it is very good to have different points of view and not have people who are thinking the same thing which would mean we wouldn’t have any decisions. It is working well.

Just before you joined as a director of the GPDA an open letter was published which outlined concerns of the future direction of F1. Since that letter there has been huge changes with Liberty coming in. What has the GPDA’s relationship been with Liberty?

RG: It has been very good, Alex does the day-to-day job, but the relationship has been good. When they came in they talked to all the drivers and spoke with us to say ‘guys, we’re here to make the show better and every idea is welcome’, I think it was a good way forward. We are in the car so we see things from a different perspective from the outside so we can have new ideas.

Are there regular meetings with Liberty and the GPDA?

RG: Alex goes to all the meetings but it is mostly because we don’t have time to go to them most of the time. We meet with the drivers at the track after the drivers’ briefing on Friday and we also have a WhatsApp group with Alex and Seb where we share and think about everything.

When you signed the letter with the rest of the drivers at the start of 2016, did you fear for F1’s future?

RG: We had concerns about F1 and it was one thing we could all see that the audience was going down and less and less people were watching F1. We thought if people stopped watching F1 then at one point it was going to die as everyone would go away. That was why we did it and there were a few things that we weren’t particularly supportive of. I think now that Liberty has come in they are trying things, some are going to work and some are not going to work, but I like the fact that they are trying.

The thing I hate the most is when before an idea is even tried people knock it and that is not fair. For example, the F1 drivers’ parade change in Austin some people liked it and some people didn’t like it but at least we tried and we can work around it. Trying to do something different was what was needed.

What sort of ideas do drivers come up with or is it mostly left to Liberty?

RG: When we have ideas we can always go and share them. To be fair though we have enough on our plates not to think about how to operate the drivers’ parade, for example, but if we have an idea on safety or timings it is always good that we can share them.

One of those big issues has been the introduction of the Halo this year. Have Liberty been involved in conversations about it?

RG: Not really as they came in after it was decided. It was a decision from the FIA and the GPDA is never going to block anything for safety. There were some very divided opinion but we are here to increase safety in F1 which we support.

IndyCar has been trialling other options away from the Halo such as the Aeroscreen. Going on what we’ve spoken about, should F1 encourage more experiments?

RG: Yes, I hope the Halo is a transition phase and we are going to find something better. This is stage one. You can get used to driving with the Halo, that is fine, but there is one thing that I’m not concerned about but I find it sad that we don’t see the drivers anymore. At the end of the day there is a driver in the car and we’ve got one helmet livery per year allowed and we don’t even see the livery of the helmet so I think something different would be better. But again safety has to come and it is good enough to put on the car.

Combining all these points, your years in F1 and time at Haas, how do you see your future in F1?

RG: I don’t know… I’ve got a feeling I am halfway through your career because I only started when I was 26 or 27 so I was pretty old for starting in F1. I have a lot of energy to spend and although I am running out of contract at the end of the year I am not worried about it and the future is going to be good. Maybe one day I will have the chance to become world champion which is why I am in F1.

So you don’t look at the younger ones coming into F1 and feel too old?

RG: I feel more experienced! We’ve had a cycle recently with very young drivers coming in – Max, Esteban and Pierre for example – maybe the next ones that come in will be a little older, we’ll see. They’ve done a good job in F1. Max is the well-established one and Esteban had a really good season last year and looks comfortable in F1 which is a tough thing to do.

On track you are rivals but in the GPDA you are colleagues as well. Is there any way to be friendly off track and then unfriendly on track?

RG: It is difficult, you never have a friend while you are racing. Let’s say if I was a really big friend of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes calls me to say ‘would you like his seat?’ because I would say yes, obviously, but would you do that to your friend because he would be out of a job. There are only a few seats in the world that you can win an F1 race with so you want to go there. If it is a friend there it is tough. There is a lot of respect and a good relationship but friendship no, maybe when we stop we can be friends but before that though it can be tricky.

Is that something you can have with Felipe Massa now as he has retired?

RG: Yes, clearly.

Plenty of years in F1 ahead so between now and then what is something you want to achieve and be proud of, whether it is on or off track?

RG: Obviously you want to win races and be world champion but I am lucky to already have 10 podiums in F1 which isn’t bad with 120 race starts. When I look back now I think my career is already not bad, it is a success because if I was a kid and someone would have told me this I would have said yes, I am happy with what I have right now. I’m lucky that I have some more years to go and maybe the best is yet to come.

Thank you for your time Romain.

RG: No problem, thank you.



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