Romain Grosjean reflects on debut season leading Haas following Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The 30-year-old Swiss-French driver Romain Grosjean finished 11th at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, bringing to a close a highly respectable first season as Haas’s lead driver.

Formula One driver Romain Grosjean during an interview with The National on November 29, 2016 at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
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One of the quiet success stories of the 2016 Formula One season was the first season for team Haas. The 30-year-old Swiss-French driver Romain Grosjean finished 11th at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, bringing to a close a highly respectable first season as Haas's lead driver. He scored a total of 29 points, which equated to 13th place in this year's drivers' championship. The National caught up with Grosjean at Yas Marina Circuit the day after the race.

Q. How was your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

A. It was pretty all right. Better than expected. We started the race far (14th place on the grid), but we had a good strategy and managed to finish just outside the points. We wish we could have scored one (point), but it wasn’t far.

Would you have done the same as Lewis Hamilton and ignored team orders in Abu Dhabi, in an attempt to push his title rival Nico Rosberg back into traffic and engineer a result to win the World Championship? Was that his only card to play?

It was. I mean he knew his destiny was not in his hands, so he had to try something. It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to judge how much you have to back off, but that’s the only thing he could try.

Do you think Nico Rosberg will go on to win more titles? Or was his one season where everything came together perfectly?

You never know. He did a great season. He wasn’t far (away from winning the title) the couple of years before that. It’s mainly relating to the car, so if Mercedes still have the best car next year, why not? If not, it’s going to be someone else.

You will have a new teammate next season in the shape of Danish driver Kevin Magnussen. How well do you know him from his time in F1 with McLaren and Renault?

I don’t know him very well, just from the races and so on. I’ve heard he’s a good guy and he’s clearly a good racer, so it’s going to be great for the team.

Who’s your best friend out of all the F1 drivers?

I get on very well with Nico (Rosberg), (Daniel) Ricciardo and Jenson (Button).

You scored a total of 29 points this season. That must have exceeded your expectations with a team in its first F1 season?

We knew going into a new team was always going to be a challenge and a lot of work, but we got the opportunities whenever we could and that was great. And in the end, yeah, 29 points for our first year was pretty impressive.

How does the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix rank in terms of your favourite races on the F1 calendar?

It’s pretty high up – it’s the last one (of the season), so you know you’ve got a break after that. And on top of that, the facilities and the build-up of the Grand Prix is always really good, so I like coming here.

In your earlier days in F1, you had quite a few racing incidents and trouble with the stewards, but in recent seasons you seem to have matured a lot as a driver. Do you feel like you have learnt a lot in those years and you’re a different driver nowadays?

Well I’ve definitely improved on some aspects. It’s tough when you get to Formula One, finding the right balance and the right limit, and obviously it took me a bit of time, but now I know what to do.

The National was a guest of the watch brand Richard Mille at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi.

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