On Tuesday, Romain Grosjean turned his first laps in an IndyCar during a test at Barber Motorsports Park ahead of his series debut on April 18. Now he knows what to work on in the car and with his physical conditioning.
This was the first time Grosjean has been behind the wheel of a race car since his fiery crash last November in the Bahrain Grand Prix and some questions needed to be answered about the strength and flexibility of hands that were badly burned in his final Formula 1 race and which muscles will be put to greatest use in race conditions.
"After the first run my biceps started hurting a bit, and I thought: 'Okay, Okay. Now we're talking,' " Grosjean said at IndyCar.com immediately following the Barber test. "You really feel the car. I guess you can drive it a little bit more with your driving style with the way you apply the brake and your turning and so on. You can actually use different lines, whereas in Formula 1 you may be more stuck to the ideal line because of how the aerodynamics work."
In a press conference following the test, the condition of his hands was quickly addressed.
"It's not perfect," Grosjean replied. "There's a nice big blister on my left thumb, which is not pretty. But driving-wise it was okay. It was not painful. I was being a little bit careful on some of the curves, but generally it hasn't been a limitation."
Grosjean will compete in IndyCar's road and street courses in 2021 with Dale Coyne Racing. Twelve of the 17 rounds will be contested on this track type that requires a lot of hand and arm strength to navigate the corners.
"I didn't really feel it in the car, so I guess that was fine," Grosjean continued. "Putting the gloves on and removing them is not always nice so I tend to keep my left glove on. To protect it from the sun as well."
Grosjean was pleased that his first test came at Barber, a track that is considered to be one of the most physically taxing.
Early in the session he spun in Turn 1 but did not damage the car. Finding the limit of a car occasionally means stepping over the line, but the spin was also partially aided by how IndyCars and Formula 1 cars respond to throttle control and steering input.
"It's definitely been the hardest steering wheel I've had to cope with," Grosjean said. "The first few laps, the muscles weren't quite warmed up or ready for it. It got better at the end, which is always a good sign. I think I know exactly where to work.
"I also heard this is the hardest track of the year, which is good to start with so you have a baseline of what it's going to be like. So I can fine tune my training.
"I didn't know what to expect and now it's pretty clear."
And after the early spin, Grosjean was incident-free for the remainder of the test.
"I have some clear ideas," Grosjean said. "I'm going to go back into the gym and make sure that the muscles are good, but sometimes you can do as much as you want in the gym, but the real training is in the car. It's good that we did 80 laps today."
Grosjean's 80-lap test on the 2.3-mile permanent road course is just shy of a typical race distance of 90 laps.
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Romain Grosjean tests the limits of IndyCar and body at Barber Motorsports Park originally appeared on NBCSports.com