Romain Grosjean will race alongside Kimi Raikkonen at Renault next season, when the team becomes Lotus. It will be Grosjean’s second spell competing for the Enstone squad, the Frenchman having made seven Grand Prix starts for them in 2009, and leaves their 2011 drivers Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna without confirmed seats.
“I am thrilled to be one of the team’s race drivers in 2012,” said Grosjean. “There’s a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next year’s car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity. To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and returning to Formula One will be a great experience, and I’m sure will help raise my level of performance too.”
Grosjean, 25, won this year’s GP2 Series. Prior to that he was a title winner in F3 Euroseries and the GP2 Asia Series before graduating to the Renault F1 team in 2008 as a test driver. Following that, he stepped up to a race seat for the second half of 2009 following Nelson Piquet Junior’s departure. This season he made Friday practice appearances for the team in Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
“I feel that my successful season in GP2 Series has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport,” continued Grosjean. “Returning to Enstone as a race driver feels like coming home. I will not disappoint and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been possible. Total, which supports me since 2006, and Gravity Sport Management, are first on this list.”
Renault had hoped that star driver Robert Kubica might be fit to return for 2012, but with continuing uncertainty over when the Pole will complete his recovery from his February rally crash, the team felt obliged to finalise their line-up for the start of the new season.
“I’m delighted that Romain Grosjean will be beside Kimi next year,” commented team principal Eric Boullier. “Romain has shown a lot of maturity in the past 12 months both through his GP2 Series victory and his development as third driver with us. We were impressed when he drove for us in the first practice sessions in Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
“We are confident that drafting him in to one of our driver’s seats will help us in our rebuilding process. I would like to thank Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna for their contribution to the team’s performance this year and I wish them all the best for the future.”
Petrov began his F1 race career with Renault in 2010 and this year finished 10th in the championship, securing a podium finish in Australia. Former HRT racer Senna was drafted in for 2011’s final eight rounds after the team dropped Nick Heidfeld. The Brazilian’s best result was ninth place in Italy.
Grosjean’s announcement, which was accompanied by confirmation that backers Total have renewed their sponsorship agreement with Renault for another year, means just six 2012 race seats remain unconfirmed - two at Force India and Toro Rosso, and one apiece at Williams and HRT.