Romain Grosjean learnt some invaluable lessons during his brief stint as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate, most notably to sometimes try “something a bit crazy with” with the car.
Grosjean and the Spaniard were team-mates at Renault in 2009 when the Frenchman was called up to replace Nelson Piquet Jr after he was dropped by the team.
Grosjean spent seven races as Alonso’s team-mate, failed to out-qualify the double World Champion and also lost to him in their race head-to-head.
“I remember one in Suzuka in qualifying,” he recalled to Nico Rosberg as he joined the 2016 World Champion for his latest podcast.
“The whole weekend I was faster than him in free practice, and then comes qualifying with the first set of tyres and I’m faster than him.
“And then the second set of tyres he killed me. I was like ‘damn, what happened here?’
“I go to the data and I remember Spoon corner, we used to brake a little bit for the first part, lift off the brake and then brake again.
“The first part he in went in so fast, insanely fast, it wasn’t the same corner.
“I was like ‘how the hell did he pull that off?’ He killed me by three tenths in that one corner.”
The Frenchman puts it down to confidence and experience, and says it was a lesson.
“I think that’s it, having the confidence, the experience, trying something a bit crazy with a car that was the slowest, trying to go for it and find something that is not written in the book,” he said.
“I learned from that and tried in the future to pull some outstanding performance where I just felt confident in the lap so I’m just going to try it.”
Alonso wasn’t the only World Champion that Grosjean partnered during his Formula 1 career, the now-IndyCar driver teaming up with Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus.
While their qualifying head-to-head was a lot more even, 19 to 17 in Raikkonen’s favour, it was the Finn who shone on race days.
“Over a race distance Kimi would always find a solution to go fast,” Grosjean said. “Whatever happens, he would always go faster in the race.
“He would drive, and he would say ‘the car was okay’.
“And you’d be like ‘no the car was not okay’.
“We were team-mates for two years and we never really spoke much. Kimi was Kimi.
“Our relationship has improved since we had kids, for the better.
“But I remember that in Spa, when we were in the truck, he came to me and said ‘Congratulations on the birth of your son’ and I was shocked because we never spoke and suddenly out of the blue he knew that I had just had a baby.
“So I said ‘Thank you, Kimi!’ I did not know what to say.
“He has changed a lot. He is a great guy. I always loved racing him on the track because you know that he will always respect you and give you room, so you can go in with confidence figthing him on the track.”
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