Jan.15 (PVM) Lotus boss Gerard Lopez was in Dubai this past weekend competing in the Dunlop 24 Hours at the wheel of the Gravity Charouz Racing Mercedes team. He took time out, at Dubai Autodrome, to speak about Formula 1 matters and also give insight into his racing escapades.
Speaking to YallaF1.com, Lopez said of Kimi Raikkonen’s return, “I must say the interest since Kimi joined our team has been very surpirsing. We knew he was popular but not to this extent and not expecting such a good response. From our side of course it is great to have him on board as he is a world champion who comes with vast experience and we all know he is fast. He is also a great guy.”
Raikkonen will lead the Lotus team effort in 2012, returning to Formula 1 after two years where he spent time dabbling in the World Rally Championship and Nascar with limited success.
Romain Grosjean, who is managed by Eric Boullier’s Gravity Sport Management, will partner Raikkonen in the team.
Lopez explained the decision to entrust Grosjean with the second seat, “Romain deserves his chance. We knew we had to have an experienced driver in the team so we have Kimi. Unfortunately we are not like Red Bull who have Toro Rosso to try young drivers without disrupting the main team. We decided to give Romain a chance because he has matured, he won the 2011 GP2 Series and we believe he is capable of doing a good job.”
He added, “When we realised with Nick Heidfeld, who is a very good driver, that we were not going to be better than fifth in the championship we tried our best to help the young talent, as you know we gave Bruno Senna a chance last year and also Vitaly Petrov who we are still very close to.”
Of first controversy of 2012 instigated by the revolutionary braking system on the Lotus, Lopez was realistic, “I am not sure everyone is copying our braking system. From our side it is not about a single element that makes a car fast, but the package and of course we are working on having a strong package for the season.”
“Last year we started really well but then we suffered a setback when we were forced to stop with our blown diffuser concept because of the uncertainty that surrounded the technology at the time and of course with Robert [Kubica] being injured it was not an ideal year.”
“We are not one of the big F1 teams, but we are the best privateer team and with Kimi on board our intentions are clear: we aim to challenge the top three. It is very tough to take them on because they have the resources and experience.”
Asked if getting into the cockpit was to be a habit, Lopez replied, “I enjoy my own racing and try do a couple of races per year and this Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai is one I try not to miss. I really enjoy the Dubai Autodrome race track. It is challenging and elevation changes you do not expect in this part of the world. Romain has driven and won races in GP2 here so I called him for some tips!”
Lopez shared the cockpit of the Gravity Charouz Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 with fellow Lotus shareholder Eric Lux, Vincent Radermecker, Loris de Sordi and Tomas Enge. The outfit finished a respectable seventh overall out of 75 entries.