LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The love affair between Romain Grosjean and IndyCar will continue another year. The Frenchman will move to Andretti Autosport in 2022 to drive a full season, including the Indianapolis 500.
Grosjean did not commit to ovals when he left Formula One to drive for Dale Coyne Racing in IndyCar. He suffered serious burns in a season-ending F1 crash last November and didn’t want to put his family through the heartache of watching him race the most dangerous discipline in IndyCar.
But this first season has been so wonderful to Grosjean, who spent a month traveling the country in a motorhome with his wife and three children, that his family is now fully committed. They will move to Florida next year for a French school he found for his children and a short flight to his new Indianapolis-based race team.
Grosjean will drive the No. 28 sponsored by DHL and replace Ryan Hunter-Reay, the former IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner who was not retained after 12 seasons. The move had been expected since July but was confirmed Friday at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the final event of the year.
“It’s a big honor to be joining such a great team as Andretti, anyone in the motorsport world knows the name Andretti,” Grosjean said.
Grosjean, who tried his first oval in August by racing at Gateway outside St. Louis, will make his Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval debut during the Oct. 8 test day.
Grosjean’s nine-year F1 career was coming to an end before his fiery crash in Bahrain last November. He missed the final two races of the F1 season and was already well on his way to exploring opportunities in IndyCar.
When he got a plan in place with Coyne, the team owner wanted him in the U.S. in January for his first test — while Grosjean’s hands were still healing.
“He gave me the opportunity of coming in IndyCar and race without even knowing if my left hand was able to hold a steering wheel or not. He gave me the chance and said ‘Let’s try,’” Grosjean said.
He said Coyne didn’t panic when Grosjean couldn’t drive in January.
“I think for everyone that wants to start in IndyCar, it’s just a perfect place because the team is a big family. You feel good. The boys will give you everything you need to have a good car,” he said. “You probably don’t feel the pressure you can feel in a top team because the top team you probably need to deliver, whereas with Dale Coyne you go with the flow.”
Indeed, Grosjean scored his first career pole in his third race, the road course at Indianapolis, where he finished second. He’s since added podiums at the return to Indianapolis and last week at Laguna Seca, where the crowd during the celebration gave him a standing ovation that nearly brought Grosjean to tears.
It’s marked a renewal for Grosjean, who has nicknamed himself “The Phoenix” because he walked out of the fiery wreckage in Bahrain and not only survived but has settled into a far more enjoyable second career.
He simply loves driving an Indy car and the atmosphere of the series.
“It’s the freedom of driving the car the way you like to drive it,” Grosjean said. “The ability to enjoy every single lap that we do, enjoy the fact that you can be competitive in any team, makes it that with the atmosphere in the paddock, obviously with the support of the fans, been just the whole package that I’ve enjoyed a lot.”
Grosjean will land with one of top teams following its split with Hunter-Reay, who won both the IndyCar championship and the Indy 500 driving for Andretti. The American turns 41 in December and last won a race in 2019.
He entered the year with a clear understanding he needed to perform to keep his seat, but Hunter-Reay is 16th in the standings without a podium finish and only four laps led.
Andretti still has former Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi under contract, as well as Colton Herta, the winner last week in Laguna Seca. James Hinchcliffe is expected to be replaced by an Indy Lights driver next season.
Team owner Michael Andretti on Friday was focused on the addition of Grosjean, who will bring his engineer with him from Dale Coyne Racing. Olivier Boisson, like Grosjean, is French.
“We are thrilled to welcome Romain to the Andretti Autosport family,” said Andretti. “He already had an impressive resume before coming to IndyCar and watching what he’s been able to do in his rookie season here has been exciting. His vast motorsport experience will be beneficial to the team alongside our already strong 2022 driver lineup.”
This will be the 12th season of partnership between Andretti and DHL, which will have a new driver in its yellow No. 28 for the first time in 11 years.
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