Romain Grosjean has set his sights on the new hypercar class of the World Endurance Championship as an alternative should he not secure a Formula 1 seat for 2021.
Grosjean’s Haas team-mate, Kevin Magnussen, summed up the situation both face when he described his future as “pretty uncertain” – as both are part of a list of candidates that team principal Guenther Steiner recently said featured “close to 10” contenders.
Grosjean also cited Formula E as an option but ruled out IndyCar because of concerns about the safety of oval racing.
“Most likely stay in Europe,” said Grosjean when asked what alternatives he had in mind should he not land an F1 seat and if he would consider America.
“In America, IndyCar is a beautiful championship but I’m not really tempted by ovals, they may even scare me.
“I don’t really want to do ovals, so for America, there’s a few endurance championships.
“I think in the future, Hypercar in Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championship can be nice.
“Formula E is definitely an option. There are some good drivers there and some good teams.
“Formula 1, everyone can do the maths and see where the seats available are.”
Grosjean has raced in top-level sportscars in the past, contesting a part-season in the FIA GT1 World Championship in 2010 and winning two races for the Matech Ford GT team.
He also raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours for Matech and took part in the Spa 24 Hours driving a Molser MT900R entered under the Gravity International banner (pictured above).
While he is considering other options, Grosjean said he was happy to wait on the Haas team’s decision given he is keen to continue with the team for a sixth season.
“Obviously, there aren’t many seats left in Formula 1 and there are many candidates, so I do understand the point of view from Haas – they’re not in a rush,” said Grosjean.
“I don’t think I’m in a rush either, there are options elsewhere which can be interesting but Formula 1 is Formula 1, and coming from Mugello you’re like ‘yeah, it’s absolutely unique what I’m driving’.
“Formula 1 is still very appealing in that respect. I guess it will take some time, we’re still early in the year and still have got many races to go so on my side, not too much of a rush.”
Magnussen stressed that he also wants to remain in F1 even though he does aspire to race elsewhere in the future.
He confirmed he was evaluating other options as a fallback to F1, but is keen to continue for a fourth year with Haas.
“I’m looking at everything right now, and open to everything,” said Magnussen.
“I’ve had a great time with Haas these last few years, and wouldn’t mind seeing that continue but I’m a passionate racer and would like to explore other things in the future.
“I’ve always wanted to do other things than Formula 1, but that time will come at some point. I don’t know if it’s going to be next year, or further in the future, it’s pretty uncertain at the moment what’s going to happen.”
Steiner insists Haas is being patient on its driver decision but confirmed there have been some preliminary discussions about its 2021 driver line up.
As well as the incumbent drivers, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Ferrari-contracted Formula 2 frontrunners Mick Schumacher, Robert Shwartzman and Callum Ilott are likely to feature on Haas’ 2021 shortlist.
“We talk but we haven’t come to a decision therefore we have nothing to announce,” said Steiner.
“It’s one of those things it’s like, what is best for the team is now what we’re discussing, to go forward. It isn’t an easy decision so it will take time.
“I spoke with Gene [Haas, team owner] after Mugello twice but not specifically about drivers. I have to wait until he gets a clear vision of that and then he will tell me which direction he thinks we should go.”
Steiner rejected the suggestion that Racing Point driver Sergio Perez was the automatic first choice, stressing “there is nothing which is a no-brainer”.
He elaborated on the factors the team will consider when it comes to deciding on its line-up for next year, suggesting that a long-term commitment might play a part in deciding whether Perez is the right signing.
“We need to see where we want to go in mid- to long-term because there is where the opportunity is,” said Steiner.
“It’s not just that we need to have some quick cash for next year, we are actually fine with that. It’s a mid-to-long term, how can we get better? How can we get the best out of the team? How can we get back to our performance of 2018 and better?
“There is more opportunity now with the budget cap coming from next year onwards and with the new regulation of 2022. So it’s a lot more complex than just saying, ‘oh, let’s go for it’. Checo is a good driver, I would never doubt him, but is he the best for the mid- to long-term?
“I don’t know. That is what we are discussing. So therefore, it isn’t such a no-brainer as it seems to be.”
What are Grosjean’s chances in landing in WEC or Formula E right away?
Grosjean’s Formula E opportunities are scarce. ROKiT Venturi seems the only realistic berth for him at present but any deal would have to be done quickly in order to get any serious testing – which would also be dependent on Venturi’s powertrain supplier Mercedes allocating it the odd day or two.
The only other viable chance would be with Dragon but that team is in a significant period of restructure after two disastrous seasons. It has just lost its title partner GEOX and could run initially with its uncompetitive 2019-20 powertrain in the first phase of next season.
A more sensible option for Grosjean will be to wait for a season when at least a few potential positions at major manufacturer operations are likely to open up.
Grosjean was also vocal in his desire to return to endurance competition, something which he used to keep sharp in his re-set season of 2010 when he raced Matech-run Ford GTs in the GT1 World Championship and at Le Mans.
Again, his chances here will be limited short-term but Alpine’s recent commitment to a grandfathered LMP1 WEC campaign in 2021 might be the fuse for a Hypercar programme in 2022. With his prior knowledge of the Renault-Nissan alliance group this could become a slow-burning fit for his future career.
Peugeot, which will enter a Hypercar project in 2022, would likely find Grosjean attractive and vice versa. But the likelihood is that Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa, both already embedded within the PSA Group via their DS Techeetah deals, are believed to already have agreements, if not contracts, in place to be part of that project.