Scott McLaughlin was criticized after making comments about Romain Grosjean following Sunday’s IndyCar race on the streets of Detroit. But the “hypocrite” label is unfair.
Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin and Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean have found themselves together on track quite often throughout the 2023 IndyCar season, beginning with the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
After a pit stop, Grosjean attempted to pass McLaughlin for the lead on the outside while McLaughlin was still on cold tires. McLaughlin hung on and retained the effective race lead until the next pit sequence.
Then during the next pit sequence, the same exact scenario unfolded, with the driver of the No. 28 Honda attempting to pass the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet on the outside.
Unfortunately, this time around, there was contact. Grosjean, who looked poised to take the lead and earn the first win of his career, was knocked out of the event. McLaughlin, who earned the first win of his career in the same race a year ago, was penalized and taken out of contention for the win.
The pair also put on a show at Barber Motorsports Park. There was no contact this time around, and the drivers exchanged the lead on multiple occasions.
McLaughlin ultimately came out on top, with Grosjean in second place, though some argued that McLaughlin benefited from controversial and “selective” timing on IndyCar’s decision to wait to throw the caution for a stalled car.
All things considered, the timing of the yellow did help him, as it kept the three-stoppers from being forced to the back of the field behind the two-stoppers after their next pit stops. But the result likely would have been the same had there been no yellow at all.
So entering Sunday’s IndyCar race on the streets of downtown Detroit, Michigan, the top two drivers in 2021’s rookie class already had a history.
And on Sunday, they only added to it.
McLaughlin started in second place, while Grosjean started in third. Grosjean made his way around McLaughlin for second, but just before making a pit stop, Grosjean went into a runoff area and lost a number of positions.
McLaughlin also found himself a few positions down the order, several laps later. As Grosjean made his way out of the pits following another stop, he attempted to get back in front of the No. 3 Chevrolet. McLaughlin had to take evasive action to avoid contact with the No. 28 Honda.
He nearly ended up making contact with the inside wall as a result, and he lost all sorts of momentum going into the corner before getting back up to speed.
McLaughlin stated after the race that the incident “destroyed” his race and that Grosjean had a “duty” not to do what he did.
"“The incident with Grosjean basically destroyed our day. Getting into turn 1 – pit exit is a little bit awkward, but he just drove straight for the apex. I was already committed, braking as deep as I could, and he just drove straight to the apex. I had nowhere to go. It’s the duty of all of us to get out of that area cleanly and I don’t think he cared where I was and turned across my nose. It is what it is.”"
Naturally, this led to some mixed reactions, with some calling the Team Penske driver, who still managed to rebound to finish in seventh place after dropping outside of the top 10, a hypocrite, considering he quite literally ruined Grosjean’s race in St. Petersburg.
Whether or not McLaughlin’s assessment of Sunday’s contact is fair is up for debate. You can certainly see his point by looking at the on-board camera of the No. 3 Chevrolet, given how out of whack the car got when Grosjean turned into the corner in front of him.
But at the same time, Grosjean didn’t actually do anything wrong. He obeyed the rules of pit exit, and the “awkward” pit exit was the same for everybody throughout the afternoon. Sometimes drivers need to adjust, and McLaughlin could have conceded that Grosjean was ahead on corner entry.
Regardless, McLaughlin’s frustration — warranted or not — does not make him a hypocrite.
McLaughlin was apologetic after taking Grosjean out at St. Petersburg. He knew that he was in the wrong, and he admitted that it was his fault. He took responsibility, and both drivers handled it like adults and moved forward.
McLaughlin shouldn’t have to keep his mouth shut regarding any and every on-track run-in simply because he caused a collision in the past. Nobody should. It’s part of racing. Even if Grosjean wasn’t in the wrong on Sunday, McLaughlin shouldn’t be forbidden from speaking his mind on it, simply because of a past incident he caused with the same driver.
It’s low-hanging fruit to immediately turn to a totally separate incident and lash out at a driver for being a “hypocrite”, especially when that driver admitted he was in the wrong after said incident.
Overall, neither driver is all that pleased with their position in the championship standings through seven of the 17 races on the 2023 IndyCar schedule.
McLaughlin, who was considered a strong championship contender entering the season after a fourth place finish in last year’s standings with the first three victories of his career, sits in seventh, 98 points behind points leader and Detroit winner Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Grosjean no longer sits in the top 10 in the standings after his fourth DNF of the year, as a suspension failure later in Sunday’s race resulted in another crash. He is still searching for his first career IndyCar victory. His two most recent DNFs have dropped him from fourth to 11th place in points.