Eight podiums from the ten races, of the 2013 F1 World Championship thus far, have given Lotus team principal Eric Boullier plenty to smile about, and he is hoping for more of the same from the back nine, starting with the Belgian Grand Prix.
How would you sum up the first half of the 2013 season?
Overall I’d say it’s been a positive start. There have been a lot of high points, but also perhaps some less satisfying moments. We’ve taken eight podiums from ten races so far, which is a great achievement for the team and shows that once again we’ve clearly made a step forwards from the previous year. Of course, amongst those highlights we’ve had three races – Monaco, Montréal and Silverstone – where we did not score as many points as we should have done, but the important thing is that we recovered from these small blips to challenge for wins at the Nürburgring and also in Budapest. For me it’s a big positive to show that we have the capability as a team to bounce back and sustain a challenge against opponents with greater resources at their disposal.
If you could pick one moment as your highlight of the year so far, what would it be?
Well I think that one is quite obvious. We’re here to win, and the victory for Kimi at the opening race in Melbourne was a special moment for the whole team.
How do you rate the performances of both drivers at this mid-stage?
I would have to give Kimi ten out of ten. He’s done a terrific job right from the beginning of the season and his remarkable run of twenty-seven consecutive points finishes speaks for itself. No matter what happens he’s always there, as we saw in the final few laps at Monaco. He is playing a big part in pushing the team forwards, and of course having such a popular character in the seat has its advantages too. For Romain it was a more difficult start to the year coming off the back of a tough season in 2012, and it maybe took him a little while to settle down and start performing to the best of his ability. With that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to see him learn from those experiences and to start delivering the kind of results we’ve always known he is capable of. In Germany and Hungary he really put together the complete package over two consecutive weekends, and this should now be his baseline. He knows that if he wants to be winning races and fighting for championships then he must deliver this kind of quality drive at every grand prix. If he can keep up this level, Romain can be a future contender for titles, I’m sure of it.
At the start of the season you stated P3 in the constructors’ standings as the target; is this still the aim?
The championship is so close between ourselves, Ferrari and Mercedes at the moment that we really need to be aiming a little higher to make sure our goals are reached. I think therefore that to target P2 is a better ambition, and we will be pushing harder than ever to sustain that challenge. We have an ambitious group of people at Enstone and a top three placing at the end of the year is very much possible, which would be a fantastic achievement for everybody involved. We head into the next nine races on a real high.
The 2014 calendar looks set to be pretty full…what’s your take on this?
I think we first need to wait for the full calendar to be confirmed before assessing the situation in too much detail, but it certainly seems like we’ll have some extra races next year and at some different venues too, which is good for the sport. We’ll also see the return of in-season testing, but we have the resources available here at Enstone to make sure the race team doesn’t get over-worked. Without doubt it’s going to be busy and we’ll need to make sure we achieve the right balance, but as a team we’re more than able to manage the schedule.
With major rule changes just around the corner, how do you see the remainder of 2013 unfolding?
I think we will see most of the teams – with the exception maybe of Red Bull – slowing right down in their development of this years’ cars in preparation for the challenge of 2014. With this in mind I think we are in a very strong position for the second half of the season, as our car is currently competing at the very front of the pack. We also have a strong upgrade package for Spa which will most likely form our baseline for the remainder of the year, so our aim should be to continue fighting for podiums right to the end. (Lotus F1)
Subbed by AJN.