Until last month in China, Swiss-born Romain Grosjean was an unknown figure in Formula 1, racing seven times for Renault in 2009 with forgettable results. Expectedly, he was released from the team the following year and was replaced by the tandem of Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov.
Unfazed by his team's decision, he continued to serve Renault as test driver, while competing in the GP1 World Championship in a Ford GT in 2010. Last year, he campaigned in GP2 for an entire season and handily won the championship with still three races to spare.
This made a strong impression on newly-appointed Renault team principal Eric Boullier, who asked him to return to Renault, renamed Lotus F1, to drive alongside 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen.
Grosjean quickly accepted the offer, but delivered disappointing results in the first two rounds in Australia and Malaysia. He qualified a strong third in Australia, but was forced to retire in the first round after a collision incident. In Malaysia, he was 7th in the qualifiers, started strongly in the main race, but spun into a gravel trap in the fourth round to prematurely force him to pull out of the race.
The hard luck racer limped into the third round in China with still no points, but energized with hope and encouraged by Bouillier and Raikkonen to take it easy and avoid accidents as much as possible.
At the end of the race in Shanghai, Grosjean finished with aplomb his first-ever race in 2012 and earned his first big 8 points with a 6th place finish behind F1 bigwigs Sebastian Vettel, 5th; Mark Webber, 4th; Lewis Hamilton, 3rd; Jenson Button, 2nd; and up and coming Nico Rosberg, 1st.
Grosjean considers his performance in China a lucky break as it served as a fitting prelude to the first-ever podium finish of his career, less than a week after his 26th birthday, as third place in Bahrain, behind teammate Raikkonen and defending champion Vettel. The podium finish is the biggest highlight of his motor sporting career for now, but many believe it won't be for long.
After two consecutive confident-building finishes, Grosjean made another head-turning roar in Spain with a close-to-podium finish, slightly behind teammate and third placer Raikkonen, to catapult him into top 8 overall in the company of five former world champions, Webber, and Rosberg.
Now he knows, his teammates realize, and F1 fans recognize that this former two-time GP2 Asia Series champion is destined for bigger challenges and loftier goals.
Despite his lackluster F1 campaign in 2009, Grosjean confided he never gave up hope and always believed in his dream. "I have been through some difficult times," he said. "It's the hard times that help more in your development as a person."
Boullier sees in Grosjean a potentially strong podium finisher and encourages the Geneva-born driver to prove him right. Grosjean is not one to turn his back from a challenge, but thinks it's a challenge addressed not just to him but also to his team. "I think we're ready," he said. "The team is improving with every race and is systematically bringing in new updates."
Looking back, Grosjean said they have proven in Bahrain that they can deliver a good result on their own strength as a team. "It's a good feeling not to need circumstances, conditions, or bad luck from others to perform well," he said. "Touch wood," he continued with a smile, an expression he picked up along the way in a bid not to tempt fate.
Mio dela Cruz is a professional journalist, sports writer and motor sports enthusiast. To read his other articles on Formula One, please visit http://www.usformula1.org.
Article Source: Mio_Dela_Cruz