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Exclusive - Boullier on Hulkenberg, finances and Lotus’s future 25 Oct 2013

Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal in the Team Principals  Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Friday, 25 October 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Friday, 25 October 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Lotus E21 rear wing and rear diffuser detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Practice, Friday, 25 October 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Friday, 25 October 2013 Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 5 October 2013

Lotus team principal Eric Boullier wants to sign Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg for 2014 to replace the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen. Before then he must secure the team’s financial future in a deal which he says is now almost complete. All being well it could mean positive news ahead of the next round in Abu Dhabi…

Q: The last time we spoke you’d just had to swallow Kimi Raikkonen’s 2014 move to Ferrari - have you fully digested it now?
Eric Boullier:
Oh yes, already a long time ago. (laughs)

Q: And it’s not hurting anymore?
EB:
No, it’s not hurting anymore. I have to say that seeing Romain blossoming, the car performing and the new generation that we brought in after (former technical director) James (Allison) left for Ferrari delivering, it all looks very good right now.

Q: Since he knew Kimi was moving on, Romain has indeed appeared to bloom. Is that pure coincidence?
EB:
Frankly speaking, yes, it is a coincidence. You could say that Romain’s stepping up started in Germany. Since then Romain was always there when we had a good enough car. True, always behind Kimi, as he still was doing little mistakes, but always very close. In the races where we struggled, both drivers ended up nowhere, but the moment we returned to ‘our’ tracks Romain was immediately there again with a podium in Korea and Japan. And that was no coincidence.

Q: But there is the impression that now Kimi is leaving, something has unlocked in Romain’s head. He seems to be a man unleashed…
EB:
Yes, it is true, it was a bit of an unlocking in his mind - at the right time. He was already on the right path. His personal life is going well and he started to blossom. When Kimi announced his departure it was the moment when something unlocked in Romain and the blossoming gained speed. Every piece seems to fall into place for him. He’s got momentum right now - and he’s using it.

Q: Lotus is now the most attractive drive available for 2014. For you, who is for you the next best thing to Kimi?
EB:
Grosjean.

Q: We are talking about the vacant seat. Grosjean is already on your payroll.
EB:
Nico Hulkenberg.

Q: Will you sign him?
EB:
I would love to. This is the recommendation that I gave to my board.

Q: You have said that getting the Lotus drive is all about talent and not about money - but what about size and weight? Would that matter?
EB:
It would matter if you have a problem over weight with the car. I believe we will not have that problem.

Q: Can you make that prediction from the state the 2014 car is in right now?
EB:
We have been monitoring the situation for months. The car has been virtually weighed and today I can say that we’re fine. We always based our car on the size and weight that is similar to Nico. More or less.

Q: We’ve heard frequently over the last couple of weeks that a contract between Lotus and investors is only a matter of days away. What’s the state of affairs right now?
EB:
This is a very complicated matter as it touches so many more issues than only Lotus. It is involving Genii - and many other aspects and many different parties. We probably underestimated a bit the amount of work such a deal implies. All the paperwork and all compliance is done, the lawyers gave it the nod - now we have to bring all these things together. I would say that 98 percent of the deal is done. The only issue that there is right now is that there is a deadline. We already dragged this out for many months, but we cannot drag it out forever. We have a deadline - and I hope they will not miss it.

Q: When is the deadline?
EB:
Soon.

Q: Very soon?
EB:
Very soon.

Q: With that deal in place, are the tough times then history for Lotus? What will it mean?
EB:
For us it would mean a long-term financial commitment. It would mean one level up and for the next five years it would allow us to build a different strategy for the team. You are free in your choice. You can pick up any driver by merit and work on the attractiveness of the team. We have good people, a very good car and a great ambiance in Enstone, and with more means and resources you can refine all these things even more.

Q: Would that mean that you come nearer the level of McLaren or Mercedes?
EB:
I hope so, yes. Maybe in between.

Q: Recently only Renault-powered cars seem to have what it takes for a podium finish. Is that coincidence?
EB:
It’s part of it. It’s not all due to the engine, as these are good cars. It is the package. Renault is very rooted at Lotus and Red Bull. It is more a part of the team rather than just an engine supplier. Working with them means that we are able to find better ways of how we use the engine and the chassis.

Q: There has been a visible performance explosion at Lotus and Red Bull…
EB:
…and I can tell you that this is not related to the engine at all.

Q: That means that you are still developing this year’s car - probably more so than others such as McLaren or Mercedes…
EB:
Well I think in the case of McLaren they’ve stepped down in their performance, so my guess is that they’ve stopped earlier with the development of the 2013 car. It is true that our latest car - the long-wheelbase development car - has already had some benefits for us.

Q: So P2 in the constructors’ championship seems to be a very realistic prospect for you?
EB:
I think today we have the best package in terms of performance. The tyres work for us and the tracks we are heading to for the last few races suit us - the layout is good for us. And we are in the position of the challenger, which is the better one to be in as it means less pressure.

Q: Are you convinced you can do it?
EB:
Yes, pretty much so.

Q: So there is only the issue of the second driver that has to be solved. When will that be?
EB:
I would love to do it before Abu Dhabi.

Q: And it could be Hulkenberg? You gave the recommendation to the board and you would like to have him…
EB:
Yes.

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