ST. PETERSBURG — When IndyCar driver Romain Grosjean visited recently to promote this week’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he piloted the 58-minute flight from his home in Miami himself.
His commute, it turns out, could have been significantly shorter; he almost became a St. Petersburg resident.
The Switzerland native spent nine seasons in Formula One before deciding to give the IndyCar Series a shot in 2021. As a rookie who had spent very little time racing in the U.S., he didn’t know what to expect.
“We didn’t know if I was going to like IndyCar or not,” Grosjean said. “I love it.”
That became apparent after the first two races that season. He enjoyed his run at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park, but his experience in St. Petersburg a week later at the Grand Prix is what cemented his decision to go all-in on IndyCar.
When he flew back home to Switzerland, he told his wife: We’re moving to the U.S.
Grosjean loved the weather and calls Florida “an incredible state,” so the Sunshine State made sense. Pinellas County has a history of becoming a new home for IndyCar drivers; Sebastien Bourdais, Tristan Vautier and the late Dan Wheldon all moved to St. Petersburg, and Colton Herta lives in Belleair.
Grosjean said he considered St. Petersburg as his new home, too, but he and his family instead chose Miami. His wife and mom are from France, and Miami offers direct flights to Paris (Tampa does not). Eight months after the Grand Prix, Grosjean was a Floridian.
He sounds enough like one now, a year and change later; he considers a 70-degree winter day cold. Grosjean has started to acclimate to the series, too. He rose from 15th in points as a rookie to 13th last year (including a fifth-place finish at the Grand Prix) and was voted the series’ most popular driver.
Now with his second season at Andretti Autosport, Grosjean expects even more, starting with a good showing in his home state.
“I think we should have a stronger package,” Grosjean said of his No. 28 Honda team, “so I’m truly hoping that I can bring back on my plane a trophy of the winner back home.”