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Exclusive Q&A - Eric Boullier on keeping Kimi, 2014, & more 09 Jul 2013

Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Practice, Silverstone, England, Friday, 28 June 2013 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1, centre, and Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal, right.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Montreal, Canada, Saturday, 8 June 2013 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Race Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday, 7 July 2013 Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 7 June 2013 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Practice, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 5 July 2013 Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Practice, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 5 July 2013 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21 celebrates his second place finish with Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal and the Lotus team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 12 May 2013 Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1 celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 17 March 2013 Alan Permane (GBR) Lotus F1 Race Engineer and Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus F1 Team Principal on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 12 May 2013

Lotus made a dream start to 2013, with victory in Australia. Since then, however, it’s all too often been a case of ‘so close and yet so far’, as with their double-podium finish in Germany at the weekend. Team principal Eric Boullier gives us his take on Lotus’s fluctuating fortunes, the ‘Raikkonen to Red Bull’ talk, and how he hopes to hang on to his star driver for the sea-change season that is 2014…

Q: Eric, in our last conversation you said that it is not a question of how you are going to keep Kimi, it is a question of does he want to stay. You said it with an air of expectation that suggested you believe he will stay. But that was before Mark Webber’s announcement and with Lotus second in the constructors’ standing. Since then things have changed. What do you think now?
Eric Boullier:
I don’t think that there is a fundamental change to what I said before. It is true that Red Bull is pushing hard to get Kimi on board and I am sure that they will put together a very nice proposal for him, even easing his PR life. But again: it will be Kimi’s decision.

Q: Have you sat down and talked with him?
EB:
We have spent some time talking already, yes - and we will sit down again.

Q: The general perception is that he’s not looking primarily for money. But with Mark gone next season he will be the oldest driver on the grid and at 34 he may be thinking of that golden handshake to make his eventual retirement more comfortable…
EB:
Of course this is a consideration. Through life you go through different stages and in the back of Kimi’s mind there must be the consideration that the next contract is his last one. So yes, there might at the end be some financial considerations that we need to take into account.

Q: So would you enter a bidding war with Red Bull over Kimi’s services?
EB:
We will offer what we believe is the best for Kimi and for us

Q: Turning to the car, what is with the E21? It seems fantastic in warm conditions, as we saw last weekend in Germany, but is a more difficult machine when it’s cold. Could such lack of consistency be the real reason behind Kimi’s considering a move elsewhere?
EB:
The time we really struggled was Montreal. Silverstone was a strange race where we could have been on the podium, but weren’t. It is true as well that in Monaco we could have scored points had we not been distracted by external factors. So from the outside maybe it looks like we’ve been underperforming at least at three of the last four races. But this is not a lack of performance. It is related to racing facts rather than lack of performance. So I don’t think that these races have changed anything for Kimi, as, being part of the team, he knows that we keep developing the car and that we will push for the second part of the season as well. He knows that the car is performing and that sometimes you just run into glitches, but that they have nothing to do with the overall performance. It was more race fights where we have probably made mistakes at previous races, but everything was back to normal last weekend. After Kimi’s win in Australia it was - together with the P2 and P3 finish in Bahrain - our second-best result of the season.

Q: What does Lotus offer Kimi that Red Bull Racing doesn’t? How can you sell Kimi on the idea of staying?
EB:
I think he likes the team and the people in the team. He is comfortable with them. Sometimes you have a good car at the start of the season, but the question is will you be able to keep up that level - and Kimi can see that we can do it. With much less resources than Red Bull we still can develop the car and compete at the same level. This weekend we had conditions that are ‘normal’, not tricky ones, not cold and rainy, and you saw that our car was competitive. If you are competitive at mid-season then in all probability we will keep the development curve on the up. So our system is working and if he is comfortable and earns enough for his ‘afterlife’ then why should he go? In the end it is up to him to tell us what he would like us to do and we will look to do it. He knows that we are flexible and that we listen to our drivers.

Q: Could Red Bull’s technical trump card, Adrian Newey, be a major factor in Kimi making a switch?
EB:
No. All that matters for Kimi is to win in a positive environment - nothing else. There are always differences from one team to the other, but I think we can easily match Red Bull Racing. Kimi is not in for the next ten years, but for the few years he is planning to stay he wants to enjoy it, win races and if possible the championship. That’s it.

Q: What would a departure mean for Lotus? The team has just welcomed new shareholders who very likely saw the advantages of having Kimi in the cockpit…
EB:
Don’t get that wrong. You can’t build a business plan on Kimi wishing to stay or not. The investors are here for the long term. They see that with fewer resources but with a proper driver line-up we can fight with the big boys. That is why they are here and sustaining the team to help us take it to the next level…

Q: …and to probably make a profitable business out of it?
EB:
…well, that’s a plan for the future - not now.

Q: Next year will be almost a clean sheet of paper in terms of car design, thanks to the new regulations - could it also be a clean sheet for Lotus in terms of drivers?
EB:
I would prefer continuity. But if my drivers are leaving I have to look somewhere else.

Q: You must have a plan B in your head…
EB:
I always have a plan B and we are in a favourable position in that after some big names we are the most desired team. A lot of drivers are talking to us, so should the white sheet situation occur I have a plan B but I will not share that now!

Q: Fourth in the constructors’ standings: could you live with that?
EB:
We could live with that, but that is not the plan. We are pretty confident that we will be able to fight back. P3 in the constructors’ should be manageable.

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