Romain Grosjean has largely healed from the burns that seared the events of Nov. 29, 2020 into his flesh. Tightness is felt when he clenches his left hand, the remnants of scars and a skin graft. They're permanent reminders of the day he became "The Phoenix."
As the three-year anniversary of his life-altering crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix approaches, Grosjean has powered through the physical damage and reconciled the emotional trauma from the fire that nearly brought his end.
Now 37, he has reimagined himself as an IndyCar driver after more than a decade spent with teams of varying competence in Formula One. Having traded Europe for southern Florida, where he lives with his wife and young family, Grosjean's whirlwind career shows no signs of stopping as the Swiss-born Frenchman has stacked three IndyCar seasons together and become firmly entrenched in North American racing following a 12-year run in F1.
He has also reached a crucial point in his second open-wheel act. The 2024 season will either cement his place in the IndyCar paddock or usher him toward a third act in sports cars.
Grosjean drove for three F1 teams from between 2009 and 2020, and he's already matched that number in IndyCar as he moves to the midfield Juncos Hollinger Racing outfit. After starting with Dale Coyne Racing in 2021 and spending two tumultuous seasons with Andretti Global, Grosjean has experienced some unwelcome parallels from the latter stages of his grand prix days when strained relationships and infrequent success led to major changes of scenery.
Like his signing with Gene Haas's startup F1 program in 2016, agreeing to lead JHR -- which has done 52 IndyCar races to Grosjean's 47 -- has the look of a backward move, but Grosjean is unbothered by the optics.
"I came in 2021 and obviously that was a very special season for various reasons," Grosjean told ESPN. "And then, you know, joining Andretti, trying to go for the championship ... while we didn't achieve that, we gave it a go. We didn't get there, so now I'm trying something a bit different with Juncos."
His time with Andretti will be remembered more for its toxicity and unfulfilled potential than the two pole positions and three podiums he earned with the team.
By the end of the 2023 season, Andretti and Grosjean weren't speaking, which led to a messy divorce and the hiring of 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson from Chip Ganassi Racing to backfill Grosjean's position for 2024. In kind, Grosjean's lawyers have been pursuing Andretti through arbitration for monies he believes he's owed for future services that were allegedly agreed upon but never ratified in a fully signed and executed contract.
Grosjean's new Juncos Hollinger home is also coming off of an unnerving season in which it parted with its lead driver, Callum Ilott, who suffered through multiple social media attacks from fans of his teammate Agustin Canapino when they felt the Briton was at fault for on-track skirmishes between the two.
Duly unsupported by the team in those attacks, Ilott's relationship with Juncos soured, leading to a split initiated by Juncos with the driver who delivered the team's best finish -- fifth at the season finale at Laguna Seca -- to onboard Grosjean.
It's a strange union, no doubt. Rather than run in opposite directions, two of the most combustible characters in IndyCar have joined forces and are fully aware they're capable of becoming each other's flame and fuel.
That's why this experiment just might work.
Both Grosjean and Juncos are readily aware of their fiery dispositions, and if they want to repair their reputations and extend their competitive runways, the upcoming IndyCar season will be a yearlong demonstration of calm and interpersonal harmony.
"The way it ended [with Andretti], it's not ideal, but I want to focus on racing and driving for Juncos and getting to a team that's excited to have me and looking forward to working with me," Grosjean said. "And I told Juncos, 'I'm not perfect. I'm someone that you need to manage like a racehorse. You can always slow down a racehorse, but you can never make a donkey faster. I say, strap yourself in. But if you get the right side of me, we are on for a good ride.'"
Grosjean is blindingly fast. Juncos Hollinger produces good cars. The potential exists for big things to happen here, but only if ego and emotion are kept in check.
"I think I'm in the 'beginning middle' of my IndyCar career," Grosjean said. "I'm not that young anymore, but I think you can see with Juncos that my experience is very important. I'm hoping that we can start getting the momentum going here like I had back in 2021 and start surfing a positive wave."
There will be many observers, from fans of Netflix's "Drive to Survive" to IndyCar diehards, joining The Phoenix in hoping for the same -- and, in turn, a place in the series in 2025 and beyond.