Former F1 racer Romain Grosjean has found his feet in the American IndyCar series after securing his first pole position in his new championship on Friday.
Former Haas F1 driver Grosjean, who just six months ago suffered a terrifying crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix last year, switched championships from F1 to IndyCar in a bid to race for victories in more competitive machinery.
His first three races offered an inauspicious start to life in the States, as he managed 10th and 13th-place finishes in his first two races, before sitting out the following two rounds as team-mate Pietro Fittipaldi took over driver duties four rounds three and four at the 230mph oval at the Texas Motor Speedway.
But the championship returned to a road circuit once again as the cars launched into qualifying at the infield circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Grosjean shone as he registered a lap time of 1:09.440 seconds to pip two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden and claim pole position.
It means the 35-year-old Frenchman will lead the field at the start of today’s Indianapolis Grand Prix, and he was understandably elated when he returned to pit lane after securing pole in only his third IndyCar race.
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Driving for Dale Coyne Racing, Grosjean splits driver duties with Fittipaldi, with the Frenchman taking the wheel on the road circuits, and the laid-back atmosphere in the paddock, along with the more level playing field between teams in IndyCar compared to the technological arms race of Formula 1, have already won Grosjean over.
“I love the atmosphere between the drivers, I love the tracks,” Grosjean said.
“The cars are fun to drive. We can go for some good stuff. I’m really happy.”
Grosjean’s performance was the highlight of a surprising qualifying session at “The Brickyard,” as the starting grid turned up a host of unexpected results.
Last year’s race winner Scott Dixon failed to get through the first qualifying session after a clutch issue, while Grosjean’s performance saw him leap to the top of the timing charts after his struggles in midfield during his first two races of the season.
Penske Racing’s Newgarden, who currently sits fourth in the championship standings, said the qualifying results certainly caught him off-guard.
“It was a mixed-up grid,” he said.
“I was really surprised where some people qualified.”