Racing around the Yas Marina Circuit with Romain Grosjean

Watch us do our best (and fail) to keep the camera still as Romain Grosjean zips through the Yas Marina track.

Meryl D'Souza December 2, 2016

We reached Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit at about 3:40 pm. Coincidentally, Romain Grosjean entered the venue at the same time. He had more trouble getting to the Richard Mille driving experience event than us.

It seemed the team manning the door didn’t get the memo on the start of the evening. The Formula One driver had to point out to the walls that donned his smiling face several times before he was allowed to enter. Perhaps this is why they’ve told us not to smile in passport pictures anymore. 

Romain entered and headed straight for the racetrack while the rest of us exchanged pleasantries and waited rather impatiently for the experience to start. Before we did though, there was the small matter of picking three winners who would get to go around the racetrack with Romain.

As Richard Mille thanked all his guests for being there, Romain came back and stood next to the watchmaking maverick. Our name was called third which meant we were third in line to sit next to Romain as he raced through the track. Before we went on to change for the big drive, Romain would be taking a few questions. We seized the chance to get his views on Hamilton’s tactics during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

For those of you unfamiliar with this season’s Formula One storyline: Nico Rosberg (Lewis Hamilton’s teammate and rival) only needed a top-three finish at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to deny Hamilton a fourth Championship.

During the race, Hamilton ignored team orders and did all he could to back Rosberg into a corner. It didn’t work for Hamilton. Rosberg finished second – after Hamilton – to claim his first Formula One world title.

Romain actually understood where Hamilton was coming from. “I think it’s great that he tried,” Romain said. “I would have done the same. He had no option really. He could have led the race by 20 seconds, but Nico would have won anyway. I heard the team wasn’t happy, but he wants to be world champion.”

With that, we were asked to head over to the changing rooms to get in gear for the drive. We threw on our racing suit, grabbed our GoPro and headed straight down to the pits.

The racing suit is beyond hot. It is widely believed that F1 drivers lose up to 3 kgs after a race due to heat in the cockpit. Surely the race suit has a lot to do with that. We personally felt summers in the Middle East were better than how we felt broiling under the suit. In hindsight though, we should have waited for our turn before zipping it all the way up and walking around as if we were professional racers.

By the time our chance came by, the sun was setting and the circuit lights required to be on. We didn’t really mind. The red and pink sky provided the perfect backdrop as we whizzed through the track.

We were excited as we took the first turn onto the track. We never really got around to asking him, but we assume Romain noticed our cocky smirk when he picked up speed because almost immediately, he started swerving. At that moment, as we zigzagged along the straight stretch we recalled Romain’s insane crash at the 2012 Belgium Grand Prix. Suddenly the smirk was gone and fear started to brew.

Of course, we made it through that gripping fear.

Romain gave us three laps of the track before taking us back to the pit. By the time we stepped out of the car, our neck muscles were sore and our body covered in sweat. We did all we could to keep our neck from snapping away while we were on the course and that took more out of us than we expected. We were actually panting after the drive. When was the last time anyone was out of breath after driving around in a car?

Before we left, Romain asked if we had fun. Of course we did, but all we managed at the time was a slight nod. We got out of that car sweaty, a little dizzy and overjoyed.