Eric Boullier has stated that retaining fourth spot in the F1 2011 constructors' standings is 'an absolute priority' for Lotus Renault GP as the campaign heads towards its summer break in four races' time – but before that, he hopes to claim 'another podium or two' and forecasts 'a strong step forward' in the upcoming European Grand Prix in Valencia.
Courtesy of Vitaly Petrov's fifth position last time out in Montreal, Renault maintained its advantage over Mercedes Grand Prix in the teams' table, but its rival is closing in and has looked the stronger proposition over the past few outings. The Enstone-based outfit, though, was unlucky not to come away with a double points-finish from a distinctly eventful Canadian Grand Prix after Nick Heidfeld found himself caught out by Kamui Kobayashi, as managing director Boullier reflects.
“It was completely unusual to have such a deluge but, as we thought it would be, the race was very exciting and a fantastic spectacle until the very last lap,” he acknowledged. “There's no doubt we could have had a better result, and seeing Nick collide with Kamui was not pleasant, but I am obviously happy for Vitaly who had another strong weekend.”
Whilst he concedes that 'dramatic, exciting races are what fans want to see', Boullier would doubtless settle for a rather more straightforward time of things around the streets of Valencia this weekend. Confident that Renault is now getting back on-track following a dip in performance in the wake of back-to-back rostrums at the beginning of the campaign, the Frenchman admits that improving the R31's qualifying form is the principal short-term goal.
“Obviously we are still struggling a bit in qualifying – we need to be higher up on the starting grid – but we are fighting for the top six, and I'm convinced things will get even better in Valencia,” he underlined. “It is beneficial for the sport to have these street circuits, as it provides a contrast from some of the purpose-built tracks. The track will suit us well, and we expect to be fighting for places on the front three rows.
“We have made a lot of technical tweaks to the car, a number of which came as a result of understanding our lack of qualifying performance. If you add to these a couple of upgrades, we should be able to take a strong step forward.
“We need another podium or two [before the summer break] to cement our position amongst the grid's elite teams and to remain competitive ahead of Mercedes GP, whose season has clearly improved. Retaining our position in the top four in the constructors' championship is an absolute priority for us, and we must continue to lay down the marker over the next four races.”