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Romain Grosjean to replace Callum Ilott at Juncos Hollinger Racing

IndyCar driver Romain Grosjean, of Switzerland, talks with guest in the paddock before the sprint shootout ahead of the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at Circuit of the Americas, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

(AP) — Romain Grosjean was hired by Juncos Hollinger Racing on Thursday to replace Callum Ilott, who the team abruptly sacked last week.

Grosjean will begin his fourth season in IndyCar with a third team. Similar to his 2021 debut in the United States, his new organization will be one of the smallest on the grid.

The French-Swiss former Formula One driver entered IndyCar for one season with tiny Dale Coyne Racing before earning a shot with Andretti Global. He spent two rocky seasons with Andretti, and his run ended with Grosjean and team personnel screaming at each other at the end of a qualifying session.

Andretti elected not to extend Grosjean’s contract. Grosjean said he’s taking the case to arbitration, but has settled on joining JHR in the meantime. The Juncos outfit expanded to two cars last season to accommodate Argentinian driver Agustin Canapino.

As a rookie, Canapino had a few on-track incidents with teammate Ilott, leading to massive fan blowback and death threats to Ilott from Argentinian supporters. Grosjean, a temperamental driver who at times openly feuded with Andretti teammates in his first season with the team, will now need to co-exist with Canapino while avoiding the ire of his rabid fanbase.

Grosjean will drive the No. 77 Chevrolet. He is winless through three seasons and finished 13th in the IndyCar standings for Andretti this year. He had consecutive runner-up finishes at Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park, but his season performance tailed off dramatically after the Indianapolis 500.

“I’ve been closely following JHR’s ascension in the past few seasons,” Grosjean said. “The team has showcased significant growth, and I am eager to contribute my experience as we aim for a strong 2024 season.”

The 37-year-old entered IndyCar in 2021 after nine full seasons in F1. He escaped a fiery crash in Bahrain near the end of the 2020 season that nearly killed him and also ended his F1 career.

“Romain Grosjean brings an unparalleled pedigree in motorsports,” said Ricardo Juncos, JHR co-owner and an Argentinian. “His leadership and experience are precisely what we need to propel JHR to new heights.”

Ilott finished 16th in the IndyCar standings in his second season in the series. The former F2 driver was surprisingly let go last week at a time when most of the seats in the series have already been filled.

Ilott had been harassed online since September’s season-finale race for late-race contact with teammate Canapino.