Grosjean nearly quit motorsport to become a chef after 2010 F1 snub
Romain Grosjean has revealed he nearly gave up on his motorsport career altogether to become a chef after losing his Renault Formula 1 seat at the end of 2009.
Grosjean made his F1 debut halfway through the 2009 campaign after being drafted into Renault as Nelson Piquet Jr’s replacement at the European Grand Prix in the wake of the Crashgate scandal.
Despite qualifying within 0.3s of teammate Fernando Alonso on his first race weekend and showing glimpses of promise across his seven-race spell with the team, Grosjean lost his drive to Vitaly Petrov on the eve of the 2010 campaign.
“It was tough, it was very late as well,” Grosjean said in an interview with the official F1 podcast. “Eric Boullier was then in charge of Lotus and I was in contact with Eric and they were telling me if we don’t find anyone you are the obvious choice because you have experience in the team and so on.
“Then on the 31st of January 2010 I got a call from Eric saying they had said [Vitaly] Petrov so I was out. I thought ‘that’s it, I’m not racing anymore’ so I am going to become a cook - because that’s part of my passion. I went to a cooking school and I was told I was too old. They said no.”
Following his failed bid to become a chef, Grosjean returned to racing for a brief spell in sportscars, before receiving an offer to drive for GP2 squad DAMS. A one-off outing at the Hockenheim round in 2010 turned into a full-time drive for 2011, with the Frenchman going on to claim the title.
“I had a very good conversation with Jean-Paul Driot [team owner] and he said ‘look, if you don’t have anything for 2011, you have got a seat here’," Grosjean said. "He kept his word, paid for everything and we brought DAMS back to the top.
“I’m very proud of that time because the team was struggling and because of the experience I had and the confidence I had I just managed to bring them back to the top. I’m even more proud that they kept on winning after that for a few more years.”
Grosjean admitted he was not ready to make his F1 debut as early as he did, and opened up a difficult learning spell during his time at the Enstone squad.
When asked where he felt he was lacking, Grosjean replied: “A lot of things. F1 is not only about driving. Driving the car is one thing but there’s being on the outside, being aware of what is going on and the games and the media.
“So I came to F1 and people thought I was arrogant, but I was just shy. I was looking not to disturb anything. No one ever told me what to do or not to do and that’s why I wasn’t ready.
“It was a dream start. After the summer break I got the phone call to say I’m in the car for seven grands prix, to get used to F1 before the next season starts and use it as learning. Turns out it wasn’t the case.
“I think it was just the case of wrong place, wrong time,” he added. “I was next to Fernando, which was amazing, I learned a lot from him. Obviously he was very fast.
“But with all the crashgate story I was part of the furniture that needed a change. I was part of the Flavio Briatore management and even though I owe a lot to Flavio for putting me in, I think it also cost me my first career in F1.”