Eric Boullier has brushed off notions of being under pressure to live up to a famous name now that Lotus has come on-board at Renault F1 and rebranded the team in its evocative black-and-gold colour scheme – and he contends that the reinvigorated Enstone-based operation will be 'ready to fight' and in the hunt for victory right from the word 'go' in 2011.
Having been battered around from pillar-to-post in 2009 with the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal, the departure of shamed managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, the loss of key sponsors ING and Mutua Madrileña and talisman driver Fernando Alonso and the majority withdrawal of Renault itself, the former double world championship-winning outfit looked down-and-out heading into F1 2010.
Under the new ownership of Genii Capital and the calm guidance of ex-DAMS GP2 Series chief Boullier, however, bit-by-bit confidence was restored and the team flourished once again, with Robert Kubica three times ascending the podium – in Australia, Monaco and Belgium, brilliant performances each – and Renault pushing Mercedes Grand Prix all the way in the duel over fourth spot in the final constructors' rankings, a considerable improvement upon 2009.
Boullier has since been promoted from the role of team principal to managing director, and Group Lotus has come on-board as a title partner and substantial investor – a development whose significance the Frenchman urges cannot be underestimated.
On the driving front, Kubica has stayed put, as has Vitaly Petrov, although the Russian rookie endured a nervous wait before finally persuading the boss with some strong late-season results. Consistency is now what is asked of the 'Vyborg Rocket', but entering 2011, Lotus Renault GP benefits from a blend of stability and fresh impetus – and that, Boullier argues, leaves the team poised to pounce.
“We have a real diamond [in Kubica], but as a diamond, he only shines if you polish him, and we need to keep polishing him,” the 37-year-old told Crash.net
. “[With Petrov] I took some time because I needed to make sure that he understood why I was putting pressure on him in 2010, and clearly I needed to understand the commitment he was ready to give.
“He showed strong commitment and he convinced me that he's the guy to be on-board. If he can race like he did in Abu Dhabi or Budapest where he did a superb job without mistakes, if he can stay concentrated like that, he will have a very good season.”
“2010 was a big turnaround, and a lot of people at Enstone can be proud of that. We now have Group Lotus as a title sponsor, but as well as bringing money obviously, they bring a lot of hope and reassurance to our company, because it's a long-term commitment from them.
“On top of that, you also have the history and the prestige of the name and last but not least, it's like a reward for the team. A year ago, we were just out of, let's say, a troubled period; all the hard work that was done during 2010 has paid off, and the reward is to have this long-term commitment from Lotus Cars.”