Romain Grosjean is preparing to run the full 17-race IndyCar season next year, expanding upon his 2020 rookie season that saw him run the road courses and the single short oval race from Gateway.
Next year’s added races at Texas Motor Speedway and Indianapolis are the ones that are the most different to the Frenchman’s road course background, however, and he is keeping in mind the respect that the new discipline demands.
Since he is planning to run the Indy 500 next year, Grosjean took part in the compulsory Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis earlier this week, and got his first taste of the series’ low downforce package in the process.
He crept up on the full capabilities of his new Andretti Autosport Honda and touched 228 mph on the front straight on his fastest lap.
His test didn’t push him past the fastest speed he has ever driven, however, as that record is currently held by his straight-line speed of 236 mph while racing in the Mexican Grand Prix.
Speaking after the day’s running was complete, Grosjean talked about his decision to run the full season and how he has to remember to respect the dangers of the high speed ovals.
“I was talking to Dale Coyne last year before my crash [in Bahrain],” said Grosjean. “I was going to do a full season, then the crash happened.
“My first reaction is ‘I’m not doing IndyCar at all.’ A few days later I was like, ‘Oh, well, I want to do IndyCar, but I don’t want to do ovals.’
“Then we went through the season. I really felt happy and in a good place in IndyCar. Then I did Gateway. Also my wife came and she could tell how great for me that experience was, how much enjoyment I was having out of it.
“We knew the next step was to do everything because you can’t go in the top 10 if you’re not doing all races. They do want to be fighting for championships, be at the front.
“It was something that I feel comfortable with my decision. I think you need to respect ovals a lot.
“Today, it doesn’t feel fast when everything goes well, but if you start losing the rear end in turn one, two, three or four, you know the wall is there. You’re still doing 200 something miles an hour.
“The cars are getting safer and safer. You try to respect the wall, stay well from that zone.”
Due to weather, Grosjean did not quite complete the necessary 15 laps at full song that are required to pass the orientation, but he will be able to complete those along with Jimmie Johnson during the open test in April.