One of the reasons Romain Grosjean is so gung-ho about moving to Haas Racing next year, is as he puts it, “the team’s all-American go-getting attitude”.
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The 2015 Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the Frenchman’s 83rd and last race in the Lotus cockpit. He made his F1 debut with the Enstone-based team in 2012, but if he is more elated than poignant to bid goodbye in 2016, his situation is perfectly understandable.
Haas Racing are newcomers to F1, the first American team since Beatrice-Lola in 1985-86. They should have been in the championship this year, but preparation to make the transition from Nascar to F1 took time, and it is only recently that they have finalised their driver’s line-up, and the build of their cars.
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Grosjean was the first driver they named, before adding 24-year-old Mexican Esteban Gutierrez last month. They have also entered a technical partnership with Ferrari and will use a power unit supplied by the Italian giants. Haas may be the unknown angels, but this week’s happenings at Yas Marina Circuit has once again proven why Grosjean feels they are better bet than known devils Lotus.
The word around the paddock is that Bernie Ecclestone had to step in to settle payment issues for the cash-strapped company, which finally led to their freight reaching Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday.
The team engineers had to go on an overdrive to get the cars ready for practice. Pastor Maldonado was ninth, but the team’s late set-up took its toll as Jolyon Palmer, the 2014 GP2 series champion, who was due to enjoy a full session in Grosjean’s car.
Palmer was unable to get out on track until 12 minutes before the end because of a persistent water leak. He had a spin early, but posted the 18th-fastest time of the session, ahead of the two Manor Marussia cars. Lotus had faced a similar situation earlier this year in Suzuka during the Japanese Grand Prix.
Given all this, it’s no wonder that Grosjean was impressed with Gene Haas, who began earning his estimated net worth of $250 million while working as a machinist and computer programmer, and his philosophy for the team.
Grosjean, who scored 10 podium finish in his years with Lotus and is currently 11th in the driver’s standing with 49 points, said: “Well, I think I have already been seduced by their approach and when I met Gene Haas for the first time. “The spirit was ‘let’s go racing’ and I liked that. I really liked their philosophy.
“I think there is this American spirit with the European base as the team is going to be in between Italy and Banbury in the UK and then all the management in the US. So it can be a great mix. I like the idea with the partnership with Ferrari. I am very happy that I made that decision.”
The 29-year-old, winner of 2011 GP2 and GP2 Asia series, did not seem too perturbed by the delay in the Lotus cars getting ready and said he wanted to give his team a parting gift with a good finish.
“It’s something we have experienced in the past. We have always managed to put it on track on time,” added Grosjean, whose best finish with Lotus was second twice – in 2012 in Montreal and in 2013 at the US Grand Prix.
“We will try to forget that, as we’ve shown in, I think it was Suzuka and Brazil when we were a little bit late. We did manage to put the car on track and go for it.
“It’s just harder work for the guys who don’t deserve this – but they are going to do the maximum and then from there we try to score some good points.
“Switching off the car on Sunday, jumping out of the E23 and thinking that was the last race with the team is certainly going to be quite hard.
“On the other hand I really want to push hard all weekend long to score good points, do a good result, thank the guys for all the support, through tough times and through better times as well. It’ll be good to have a good weekend and say goodbye in a proper way.”
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