IndyCar: Gene Haas raises eyebrows with Romain Grosjean confession

Romain Grosjean, Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Mark Sutton - Pool/Getty Images)
Romain Grosjean, Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Mark Sutton - Pool/Getty Images) /

Haas Formula 1 team owner Gene Haas pulled out of backing Romain Grosjean’s IndyCar effort for the 2021 season following his crash in Bahrain.

Following 10 seasons in Formula 1, including the last five with Haas, Romain Grosjean is set to embark on a new chapter of his racing career in 2021, as he has made the move to IndyCar to compete for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing behind the wheel of the #51 Honda.

Grosjean is only set to compete in the 13 road and street course races on the 17-race schedule, however.

He had initially planned to run the whole schedule, well before the deal was actually announced, but his scary crash in November’s Bahrain Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit changed his outlook and justifiably affected his final decision.

Haas released both Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen after the 2020 season and replaced them with Formula 2 champion Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin for the upcoming 23-race campaign.

But team owner Gene Haas was still set to sponsor Grosjean’s IndyCar effort even after releasing him from his Formula 1 team. Grosjean had competed for the team since they entered Formula 1 in 2016 as the sport’s lone American team, so the continued partnership made sense.

However, that will no longer be the case, and the reason why is quite interesting and has left many confused.

Here is what Haas had to say about the matter, according to RACER.

"“He had asked if we would be willing to sponsor him in IndyCar, and I think at the beginning I was pretty open to it. But then when he crashed in Bahrain, I was just so happy he didn’t kill himself. For someone who has just absolutely destroyed the car, I couldn’t be happier that he survived it.“I don’t know…he has a wife and three kids, and I just told him I couldn’t see giving him money to go out and kill himself. I just felt like he needs to stay home and take care of his family. He escaped the big one there. If you really understood what happened there… if that car had been a few degrees one way or the other, he wouldn’t have been able to get out through that hoop, and he would have died. So, extremely lucky.“And the team was extremely lucky. I just could not fathom having to face a widow or his kids. I just couldn’t do that. So I said ‘Nah, stay home, I can’t help you there anymore’. … He loves driving, and that’s his choice. I just don’t want to be part of the bad choice. I feel as lucky as he is to escape being killed.”"

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Some fans have pointed out that Grosjean had initially planned to run the full 17-race schedule in the 2021 season and ended up crossing off the oval races after the accident, indicating that perhaps Haas was interested in sponsoring him for a full season but nothing less and then really  pulled out when that deal was reduced.

While he still may very well compete in the race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Grosjean will no longer compete in either race at Texas Motor Speedway or in the crown jewel on the IndyCar schedule, the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

However, Haas’s explanation indicates the exact opposite and only leads to further questions.

The reason why Grosjean canceled the oval races from his 2021 plans was out of safety concerns. That’s a fact. So why would Haas pull out of the deal over those cancellations, when he is the one saying that he will no longer sponsor his former driver due to safety concerns and the idea that he is going to “kill himself”?

He wouldn’t.

While some may beg to differ, his explanation clearly indicates that he would’ve pulled out of the deal even if Grosjean had kept the full schedule, considering the fact that a full schedule would’ve been seen as even less safe than just running the 13 road and street course races.

It’s rare that you’ll see a racing team owner pull out of a race car sponsorship because racing is dangerous, but it appears as though that is what happened. And it has rightfully confused quite a few people.

Let’s also not forget that the wreck that almost killed Grosjean happened in Formula 1, not in IndyCar. Haas still owns his Formula 1 team, and Formula 2’s most recent fatality came four years after any fatality at the highest level of American open-wheel racing.

Grosjean had this to say about Haas’s potential involvement in his IndyCar entry.

"“I think we definitely had discussion before and after the crash with Haas to sponsor the project. Felt like it could be a great story, racing for Haas in Formula 1 since the beginning, then carrying on and bringing the color to IndyCar. Obviously they decided otherwise. I guess they had their reason and their choice. Fully understandable. I don’t know what he was quoted. I didn’t read any of the interviews he gave, so I don’t know what was his word.”"

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Whether or not there are other reasons for this decision, that remains to be seen. But there will certainly be questions, especially given some of the other sponsorship situations in which the Haas team have been involved since the 2019 season.