21 August 2009 – Jean Alesi is sure that Renault rookie Romain Grosjean will be no match for team-mate and former double World Champion Fernando Alonso in Valencia this weekend but firmly believes that the Spaniard will act as a huge help to the development of the Frenchman's career as he competes in his first Grand Prix.
With Nelson Piquet having exited the team following several disputes with team managing director Flavio Briatore, 23-year-old Grosjean will fill the brief for the Brazilian. "To make your debut alongside the best driver, the one who is ranked the highest, is a chance," Alesi, who drove in 201 Grands Prix between 1989 and 2001, said on Thursday. "It is a bit like if he were alone because nobody can honestly expect him to come close to Alonso."
Often remembered for his Tyrrell's daring challenge on Ayrton Senna's McLaren for the lead in Phoenix 19 years ago, French-Sicilian Alesi retained his fighting spirit until retiring from F1 in 2001 but understands the situation. "Sometimes a driver makes his debut with another driver who is not really in the press' good book but who is genuinely excellent and never had the opportunity to prove himself; in this case, if the former does not easily beat the latter the criticisms won't take long to be written."
Having followed Grosjean's career up to his GP2 title attack of this season, Alesi believes that there are still flaws to be rectified. "Sometimes, Romain's fault is his excessive optimism but you have to consider this aspect of his character as the drawback of a quality, the other side of a medal," Jean continued.
"He is a fighter - he has already learned how to apply his energy when necessary and, with this experience, he will know how to channel his fiery side even better."