Driving assessment

Grosjean borrows from ‘Days of Thunder’ in response to Rahal

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Romain Grosjean of France removes his balaclava during IndyCar Motor Racing Trials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

PA

Romain Grosjean used a line from the movie ‘Days of Thunder’ to shrug off criticism from Graham Rahal following late contact between the two during last week’s IndyCar race.

“Racing is rubbing, or rubbing is racing,” Grosjean told The Associated Press on Thursday in the paddock ahead of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Miami this weekend. “I don’t know, I was on good points and I wanted more.”

Grosjean was then arrested by an old acquaintance; warmly welcomed by a former team member; and welcomed in French by a compatriot. He hasn’t been in F1 since his shipwreck at the end of 2020 and now races in IndyCar, where within a season he was voted the series’ most popular driver and took a seat at Andretti Autosport.

Grosjean moved his family from Switzerland to the Miami area and is back in the paddock for the inaugural event as a race ambassador. It also comes from an incident Sunday at Barber Motorsport Park in Alabama that drew a scathing rebuke from Rahal.

The two were battling for seventh and eighth and Rahal felt he left enough room for Grosjean to have a fair race for the position. Instead, he alleged that Grosjean intentionally hit him and then attacked Grosjean’s reputation.

Grosjean was winless in 10 seasons in F1, was suspended a race a decade ago for his role in a crash and escaped death freeing himself from a fiery wreck with two races remaining in his F1 career .

“Another pilot on the show said to me, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ and that’s sort of his reputation throughout his career in Europe,” Rahal said. “We quickly learn of his reputation here. For me, if race control won’t do anything, then they won’t. But when we’re going to kick it, they better not do anything to me, whereas in the past I’ve been penalized for much less than that.

Grosjean was unfazed by Rahal’s assessment.

“It was racing. That’s it. Yeah, he said, shrugging his shoulders.

He has focused on his return to the F1 paddock, where he remains a popular figure. Grosjean is delighted for former teammate Kevin Magnussen – the two lost their jobs together at the end of 2020 but Magnussen was recalled to Haas this year – and has been pleasantly surprised by Haas’ improvement.

“I’m really happy for Kevin. Every time we spoke to each other, even at Sebring testing, he was really looking to get back into a single-seater,” Grosjean said. “He wanted to do IndyCar, then a few weeks later he’s back in Formula 1 with a team that can give him a good car. So it’s very nice.

His hands still bear the scars from his accident but Grosjean has moved on. He’s happy with IndyCar driving the full season for Andretti and set to make his Indianapolis 500 debut later this month. Grosjean is eighth in the standings, but has a podium and finished fifth in the season opener.

“Andretti is doing pretty well,” smiles Grosjean. “We have to start winning.”

And then The Phoenix was off for another appearance.

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