A Formula 1 car is tough to drive at the best of times, let alone when you are on a high-speed track and lacking a number of key parts – something Haas’ Romain Grosjean found out the hard way at Mugello.
Grosjean’s Tuscan Grand Prix got off to a dramatic start as he was caught up in a first-lap incident with Pierre Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, resulting in him ending up in the barrier at Turn 2. Somehow, Grosjean managed to re-join the circuit and put in a battling drive to make the finish 12th out of 12 runners, despite being massively hampered with his car’s performance.
“I had a good start and was on the inside in Turn 1 and ready to attack Turn 2 and someone came and hit me from the side,” Grosjean said. “A big hit, and then another big hit against the barrier, so I switched off the car and thought that was game over. Then I thought, ‘You know what? I’ve got two tyres on the grass’, so I restarted the engine, put it in first gear and I went. I thought, ‘Okay, I’m getting out of the gravel so let’s see what happens.’
“I was hoping there would be a little bit less damage than what we had, but I think from switching off and being ready to retire to finishing the race is pretty cool.
“We got the best out of it. We had about two [seconds-per-lap’s worth] of damage on the car, but we survived. The last restart was really good, I managed to get the two Ferraris and the Williams and was ready to be in the points. But obviously the Haas is not the fastest and if you take two seconds of damage on the car, it’s just going to make you slow.
“So sadly we couldn’t keep up the pace, but we tried as hard as we could and that’s something that no one can take away from us.”
Haas estimate Grosjean had lost around 70 points of downforce in the first lap crash – a stat that left Sebastian Vettel surprised at how attacking the Frenchman was on the final race restart – and Grosjean says racing on despite so much damage is testament to the team’s attitude.
“It’s one of the strengths of Haas, never giving up … Under the red flag I saw the car and I thought, ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do here?! Half of the left-hand side is missing!’. Then the boys said, ‘Look, there’s 14 cars on track, even if you’re last maybe you’ll finish P10’. So they said. ‘Hang in there, do your best and go to the end’ – and that’s what we did.”
Ultimately, Grosjean failed to score, meaning he remains without a point to his name this year, while team mate Kevin Magnussen was eliminated in the Safety Car restart crash – leaving Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner grateful for a break after a tough run of races.
“It was an exciting race again,” Steiner said. “I think we create a lot of the excitement, but in the wrong way. We’re always part of why it gets exciting – which after a while gets old. We ended up in positions where we shouldn’t be ending up. When you’re on your back foot it normally takes a long time to get out.
“It was a challenging weekend. After three race weekends in a row, everybody’s happy to be going home. My thanks go to all our guys. We’ve had a lot of controversy over these three weekends, but they’ve worked hard and kept their heads high. I want to thank them for that.”