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September 29, 2015

Romain Grosjean

Q.  Could you talk about what you love about Formula1 and what is it like for you being European and working in a team that's based in America?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Well, the thing I love about Formula1‑‑ I didn't know much about NASCAR initially, but one of my best friends is a huge fan of NASCAR, so I'd like to learn a little bit more about the racing in America. I think, yeah, it is the same tradition. Everything you want is to be the first one on the track and to beat everyone else. The way it's done is a bit different, but I think Gene have been setting up that team with a partnership is a big company in Formula1, Ferrari, it's going to help massively at the beginning, and the car should be really about going on track, driving, going around, and then we can work from there. We can set it up, we can get the engineers to get better and better, take the time to get it on the top. So I think it's the way or the approach with which it's been done is very, very intelligent.

Q. There's an added benefit you're getting of joining Haas, and that's the fact that you're now a part of the Ferrari driver program, as well. Did that sort of factor into your decision in any way?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Well, you always think about‑‑ a career is quite short. I'm going to be 30 next year. You stop by 36, 37, so I've got six more years left, something like that. So yeah, you think about one day you would like ideally to race for Ferrari is a dream for most of the racers. I want to be world champion, but right now I think it's just the way the project was done and the fact that Ferrari is behind to supply some important parts for the car, that should work straight away very well. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, we just used what is known as the best part, and then we can work from there.

Q. How risky is it to go to a brand new team?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: It's a risk, but‑‑

Q. So much is on your shoulders.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Yeah, well, risk is part of our job, part of our life. You know, every time you overtake a car, every time you do something, you take a risk, and of course‑‑ I thought about it. I spoke to my wife, spoke to one of my best friends, and made the decision, and when I do a decision, I don't come back. I think I'm opposite.
I think it is risky. As I say, I knew that very well. I know the guys. I know what works, and I know what they were planning to do next year, but on the other hand I think it's a calculated risk. I think, as I say, I've got enough information to think that this could work and work very well, so I picked to take that risk.

Q. Did you talk to Alain Prost?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Yeah, I know Alain. He's part of the whole project for me as a Frenchman, French driver. It was a nice project, as well, but at the end I thought about coming here, being the first lead driver for an American team, such a big country, always got good results in Canada and Austin, my two best results, well, why not?

Q. When you look at the excitement of the new team, new beginning, I mean, you don't feel like you're starting over but you've got to be excited about everything.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Yeah, you are excited about everything, and it's a nice start to be happy to be here and to be happy to be racing for an American team. As I say, everything has been done in a good way, and the car should be ready on time, ready on track, go around, and work pretty well.

Q. When you look at the relationship between Ferrari and their fans, is it an opportunity for you to kind of engrain yourself in American culture and kind of forge that relationship with American fans?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Don't ask me for the accent. I think that will never, ever happen, but I'm really happy that we're going to get some support from America. It's such a big country. There's so much to know about it and to learn about it. And being part of an American team, our flag colors are the same, blue, white, red; different positions, but I'm really hoping we're going to get a lot of support from here, from America. It means a lot to us when we are on track and we see the flags, and I'm sure people are going to‑‑ if we're successful and if we do things right, it's going to be great.

Q. Racing in Austin the way you have, what have you learned about American racing culture that you didn't know going into it?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: When I came in 2012 for the first time in Austin, I was a bit skeptical because 2005 and 2006 was not so good in Indianapolis, and then we came to Austin in 2012 and the grandstands were completely full, people were there. I did not understand a word of what they were saying. The Texas accent was quite hard. But I was really‑‑ it was really nice to see that it's one of the races where we've got the most‑‑ the biggest crowd.

Q. What type of things will you do to learn about the U.S. or experiences that you'll try to gain, and how much time will you be spending here in this area?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Probably much more than before. I don't know much about the U.S., I only came once in Austin for the Grand Prix and then once in Charlotte, so I need to discover much more about here. We unfortunately don't have the time very often to do it, but I want to come. I want to discover NASCAR. I want to go to a race, see what it is. It's like huge here. That will be really a good start for me to discover more about that sport.
And then just spend time with Gene and the people living here and discover more.

Q. Obviously the Stewart‑Haas NASCAR shops are literally right next door. Have you had a chance to meet any of those drivers?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: So I met last year Kurt Busch at the Race of Champions. I had to race with his boots because I forgot mine. And then yesterday I went to see the shops, and the first thing I thought was, ooh, how many cars are there. I'm used to seeing two cars in the middle of the shop, and there were, I don't know, 60 cars. It was quite impressive. I jumped in the car to see how it was. It's quite amazing. I think there are things we can learn from NASCAR, there are things NASCAR can learn from Formula1, but it's great, and it was really nice. I took my picture in every car because I was like a kid.

Q. Do you remember the time frame you made the decision to come to Haas F1, and did your relationship with Lotus accelerate your decision?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: As I said, I took my decision before knowing if I was coming on board or not because I met Gene and Guenther during the Italian Grand Prix. That was 6 or 7 of September. And by the next Wednesday I was taking my decision. I went for a run, 14K, came back home, and discussed with my wife, and I said, I've made my decision, and then I explained to her why, and she was really upbeat, and she thinks it's the right thing to do.

Q. (Inaudible).
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Well, I think they‑‑ they only know since this morning that I'm leaving, and he emailed the whole factory saying that I was leaving the team. They are quite sad, I think, as I am. The last race of the season is going to be very emotional. I spent 10 years of my life there. I know all the guys very well. But I think they understand, and they know that for my career, it may be a very good choice.

Q. There's some different challenges here and different pressures. Obviously any time you move to any team, there's challenges. Starting a new team is a challenge, and then here now you have America, as well, who's desperately‑‑ there's a lot of race fans over here, desperately looking for an American team to join the series and have success. Does that pressure add to the challenge for you?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: I think pressure is part of our job. I've got the chance to lead the Lotus team for the last two years when Kimi Raikkonen left the team. I was the natural leader. I learned that role, didn't do perfectly in 2014, but I think from where we were in 2014 to where we are in 2015, it was good move, good direction, so that was pretty cool.
And yes, there is always pressure in Formula1. There's a lot of people behind you working, the sponsor, the owners that are investing money, and at the end you are the final key to race, even though it's still a‑‑ they need good team spirit because all the guys working hard, prepare your car, get your best car, then you go on track and you have to do it right. Without the best car you cannot win, but without the best driver you cannot win, either. You are the end of the chain, and it's important to know that there is pressure, that there are big things happening and big things behind, but it's part of our job, and we just like it.

Q. Could you tell me a little bit about your hometown, where you're from and what that area was like?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: So I was born in Geneva, and I still live in Geneva, in Switzerland. That's why I'm Swiss and French. It's quite a long way from the U.S., but got more to discover more around here.

Q. Have you ever been to this area before, and what is your impression of Kannapolis, Concord, this area?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Well, I only came once‑‑ well, one place in the U.S. was Austin before, and I arrived here, discovered a NASCAR city, and I love it. I think I'm passionate about racing before being a Formula1 driver, and to see that all the teams are in the same area, to see that there's a statue of Dale Earnhardt, it's big, and I really like it.

Q. Have you had any input as to who the second driver may be, or has that largely just been left to the team brass?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Well, they can always ask my advice or they can ask what I think about drivers, but at the end of the story it's not my decision. We are trying to build the team the best we can, so of course every advice from someone that knows a little bit the drivers or the engineers or the people working Formula1 is welcome, but at the end it's up to Gene and Guenther to take the decision.

Q. What would you say are the biggest challenges when you guys get there? My understanding is the number of tests is limited next year, three to two. What sort of role can that possibly play with the car development?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: I think the car development is mainly done in CFD, in the wind tunnel, and wind testing you normally don't have the update or the aerodynamic, which is the biggest part of the car, so I think we're going to focus on our early ability, getting practice pit stops, getting the team up to speed. It's brand new, so we need to make‑‑ need to find our way through the car. We need to make sure the car is well built, we don't have any big problem. But I'm not too worried because we have got good parts from Ferrari, so all of that should go straightforward, and then we can focus on about starting to work, starting to learn how the car is going through high fuel, low fuel, long runs, short runs, and getting the aerodynamic up to speed, as well.

Q. Obviously you sat in the conference room during the press conference and saw those big pictures of Kevin Harvick's championship, Tony Stewart's championship. I mean, Gene Haas has a very good track record in racing. How much did that play a role in your decision to take this jump?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Well, the fact that Gene knows racing, he's won racing, NASCAR, big championships, played a part in my decision. When you take a decision, it's always a risk, and you really need to get the pros and the cons on the table and see what it's like, and I really like where Gene is coming to Formula1. I like the way he knows the racing, he's won championships, and I like that we've got a big partnership with a really big team in Formula1, and from there we can move on and move on quickly.

Q. If you look at the history of American teams in Formula1, it hasn't been the greatest history, at least of late. How can you change that?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Well, we're going to certainly try to make it successful for America and for a team in Formula1. That's a fact. We are really happy to be on the grid in Melbourne and go racing. I'm sure we're going to have a good car, and the way everything has been done with Gene and Guenther is very different from building a car from zero, so it should work pretty well. I'm sure it's going to be successful.

Q. You have a great technical background as well as driving experience. For a fan that may not know, how much of driving the car is driver, and how much of the car is technical?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: I think the best driver in the world's car won't win anything, the worst driver in the best car won't win anything, either. You need the car does play a big part of the things on track, but as a driver, you can always try to be ready to get opportunities, do your best, be there any time, and whenever you've got the chance to go for some big points, then you are here, and that's experience, that's the driver. You always need to be on top of things.

Q. What makes you most excited to start, to get this going?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: I'm really excited about having America's fans behind us. It's such a big country that it would be really nice to have a lot of support. I'm very much looking forward, as well, to discovering a new car, discovering a new team with a new environment, new steering wheel, new seats. It's like Christmas. There's a new tire coming, and you just want to try it.

Q. You said it's hard to predict what a successful season would be, what a great race would be, but you have to have some personal goals. What are your personal goals?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Well, the personal goals is always to give yourself 100 percent, do your Max. If you can jump out of the car after the race and tell yourself I'm proud of what I did today, I've got all that in my hands and really on track, that's nice. Of course you want to be at the front as much as you can, but it differs so much in the car that the best thing you can do for yourself is to give it 100 percent any time and just be proud of what you have achieved. If you do mistakes, learn from it and do the next race.

Q. So have you ever been to a stock car race?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: I haven't yet, but I'm sure going to come soon.

Q. Have you met the other Haas drivers?
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: I met Kurt Busch at the Race of Champions, and I actually raced with his boots because I forgot mine. He was a nice guy. It's such a big race in America. Actually my best friend is a huge fan of NASCAR, and I sent him pictures yesterday from the shop, and he was really, I want to come and he was really unhappy not to be here, but I told him I was going to bring him and that we'd go see a race.

Q. Kurt is a pretty impressive driver. I was at Monza rally with him last year. He'd never been to Monza, never seen the rally. Of course Valentino changes it like eight different times. I mean, it was in the rain and the dark, and he progressed through the whole‑‑ it was pretty impressive.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Yeah, it must be impressive, as well, driving NASCARs. They are good drivers. It's a different‑‑ they are doing mainly ovals, but they are good drivers.

Q. Just a quick comment to wrap up about the Ferrari relationship, how much that maybe impacted your decision to come here and what your expectations are with Ferrari.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: I think it was a big part of my decision knowing that Ferrari was backing up the team. They were supplying a lot of parts which are very tricky to make. And knowing the car would be ready in the first test and running, that's a big part of my decision, knowing, as well, that we had a good wind tunnel with no correlation issue, we had good CFD, we had good people working, good engineers, good engine, good gearbox. All of that made it quite sexy.

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