In his latest F1i column, Romain Grosjean reflects on improvement in Japan, build-up to a home race for Haas and wants to add wins to 100 race starts
So heading into the Japanese Grand Prix I’d completed a total of nine race laps having failed to start in Singapore and then retiring early in Malaysia.
I wasn’t dwelling on that though on arrival to Suzuka as you just simply have to move on. I’ve talked before about the plus side to this busiest ever F1 schedule is that you don’t have to wait too long before you get to go racing again.
When we got there we weren’t sure how much dry-weather running we’d be getting as conditions overhead were a bit dodgy. Thankfully it was fine and we were able to move on and keep tweaking the car. We’re always striving for better performance and Japan helped us.
To be honest I didn’t have an expectation ahead of qualifying in Japan that we’d have such a strong performance and get both cars into Q3 on Saturday afternoon. On the Friday we’d had a few issues, the car balance wasn’t too bad but certainly at that time, it wasn’t good enough to go to Q3.
On the Saturday morning we ran the new front wing again and we managed to get miles on it. Ultimately it was a big step for us. From that point on, we obviously knew qualifying would be tight.
We knew it could be as close as just a few tenths of a second making the difference between getting right up there, achieving what we knew might be possible, or just missing the cut. I think in Q1 and Q2, for example, it was only four tenths of a difference from being a hero to zero.
As a team though, getting both cars into Q3 was a great achievement and then I moved up to P7 for the start after penalties had been applied elsewhere, so we had a very strong grid position.
Unfortunately I had a poor start, which certainly didn’t help the first few laps. I struggled a little bit on the first stint. I didn’t have enough aero balance on the car which affected the front tires.
Then we pitted for the hard compound and the car, from that point, flew, I was really happy with it. I had some very good laps and was generally getting a very good feeling behind the wheel.
There’s still a lot of things we can improve but I felt great in the car at that time, it had been a long time since I’d had that kind of feeling. That was great, and something very positive after our recent races, it was good that finally our upgrade package was delivering.
Now we’re focused on this weekend’s race in Austin. It’s my 100th Grand Prix start, to be honest I haven’t noticed the time going by so fast since my debut. I remember coming back to F1 in 2012 and qualifying third in Australia, which was a happy memory after everything that had happened before.
There’s been lots of memories since then too with good years like 2013, when I scored six podium finishes, and even seasons like last year, where the car was far from ideal but I managed some good performances behind the wheel.
Now obviously I’m on this fantastic adventure with Haas F1 Team. It’s just been an amazing year and full of pride, starting with our first Grand Prix together back in Australia and finally being a part of the championship.
I think I’m something like the eighth or the ninth French driver to have reached 100 Grand Prix starts. That’s not bad, but now I just want the wins to come for my career.
I appreciate the history of Formula One, though I’m not necessarily perfect on the subject. I know a few things and obviously I probably know more about the French drivers to have competed over the years.
It’s that appreciation and respect that also leads me to my decisions on current topics, such as the halo device. To me it goes against the history of what Formula One is, it goes against everything we’ve seen on these cars since day one.
I started watching Formula One back in the nineties, I know it very well from that time on, but I do like to look back on the different eras and see what the drivers and tracks were like back then and how far the sport has come in that time.
Last year in America it was great. When I arrived there, I had a connecting flight in Dallas and even then I had a lot of people coming up to me and telling me how happy they were that I had joined the team and that there would be an American team competing. It really surprised me to get that kind of welcome from fans and people in general.
I think it’s going to be a great weekend, certainly a big one for us. Hopefully we’ll see a lot of Haas F1 Team banners, and of course some R8G ones too. Everything’s bigger in Texas so let’s hope our support is big there this weekend as well!
I don’t like to make predictions, especially as it’s our first year, so I’m simply hoping that we can get the car so I have the same feelings I had in it in Suzuka. If it behaves like it did two weeks ago, we can then do some fine tuning and keep improving from there.
If I’m having fun in the car, we’re normally at a competitive level. That’s what I’m aiming for, finding the balance in the car and doing what I need to do on a track that I love driving on.
It’s always a great race and a lot can happen. I can’t wait to get started and hopefully we can put on a good show for all of our fans there.