Romain Grosjean is one of auto racing’s true survivors.
Less than two years ago, the 36-year-old Swiss-French driver thought he was a goner after a fiery crash during a Formula One race in Bahrain. He miraculously escaped the scorched wreck, but suffered severe burns to both hands. He managed to return to racing about six months later, and next month he’ll be in the lineup for the Toronto Honda Indy, July 15 to 17.
The now-IndyCar racer recently chatted with the Star about the impact of the crash, his love of cooking and ties to Canada:
You’ve had two podiums in Canada in F1. Is there something about coming to Canada that is special for you?
Yeah, I love coming to Canada, I had a really good race back in 2012 (second to Lewis Hamilton at the Canadian Grand Prix). I’m actually going (this weekend in Montreal) … I’ve never been to Toronto, but my wife (Marion) was living there for six months when she was a student. She loved it so much, she almost made the move to live there.
What will you be doing at the Montreal Grand Prix?
Commentary for the French TV. I do four or five races.
You’re established in IndyCar now, but what was the biggest challenge in the transition from F1?
Getting used to the car, the rules and the competitiveness of IndyCar. You know, you really have to be full-on every time you’re out there. The racing gap between the (cars) is so small, you have to push super hard to get somewhere.
F1 is about speed and handling, but IndyCar is more raw speed and holding it. Was there an adjustment to the speed in IndyCar?
The first few laps were quite challenging, and the lack of passing — that was quite a big thing when I first started. The downforce behind me is not quite as strong as F1, but the (crew) is really quite strong, so it’s been good … You muscle the car quite a bit, and in F1 you can’t have as much oversteer, but here in IndyCar it’s different. It’s a different way of going fast.
You survived a crash that could have taken your life. You said the Halo (protective barrier in the cockpit) saved your life. How did that death-defying experience make you stronger as a person?
I think I just enjoy life much more than I did before, because my life was almost gone at one point. So happy to be alive, to be around and doing what I love to do, which is racing. To be around my kids (two sons and a daughter). I just use every chance, every opportunity to try and get better. Obviously that day was (scary), but it changed me, and changed me for the better.
Last year, you showed your hand injuries to the world. You suffered severe burns. What challenges does that present?
You know, initially the injury was quite bad. I was driving with the skin not being strong enough, so that was quite a bit of an issue until I could find a tape that would stop the blistering and the bleeding. Then I had a surgery (in) late 2021, quite a big one on my hand, and I was pretty much normal then. I don’t do anything differently than I was doing before. I just need to be careful not to hit things, because …. it very quickly bleeds. If the weather is too dry, it’s not really enjoyable, but when it’s hot and humid my skin feels really good.
You teamed with your wife to write a cookbook. Are you a good cook?
I love cooking. And yeah, we did a cookbook in 2017 and that was a lot of fun. I’ve travelled a lot lately, so my wife has taken on that and she’s been really good. I like cooking all the normal stuff. I’m less of a dessert guy. I prefer the starter or main entrée.
What’s your fave restaurant in the world?
There’s a lot of them, but I’m going to say Restaurant Renoir in the Sofitel, Montreal. The chef there is a very good friend of mine, and I love going there.
You lived in Switzerland before moved to Miami recently. Did you ski a lot?
I love skiing, I started skiing very early in life, and both of my boys can ski very well. It’s something we do quite often as a family. We really enjoy it.
How did your family help you through your crash ordeal?
It was important that we were all involved in the decision to go back to racing in 2021. That’s why we didn’t do the ovals initially, because they didn’t feel like they were ready to be sitting at home in Europe and watching me go around at 230 m.p.h. The cars are getting safer and safer, but it’s still 230 m.p.h. and you can crash on an oval. But we decided to go back to racing, and then my kids starting asking me why I wasn’t doing the ovals, so we started doing them and moved on from there.
Toronto is a bumpy race course. You’ve raced on the best tracks in the world, so what challenges does a bumpy Honda Indy present?
When it’s bumpy, it’s very challenging and I hear Toronto is bumpy. On the other hand, we haven’t been racing there (for two years because of the pandemic). So I think people will be surprised with our racing, and I’m looking forward to coming to Toronto to race.
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