F1 » 13 December 2011
Lotus Renault targets title by 2014
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean tasked with returning Lotus Renault to champion status within three years.
Lotus Renault team boss Eric Boullier insists that the determination to reclaim the F1 world championship was behind the decision to pair Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean for 2012.
Amid claims that nationality and sponsorship was behind the choice of reigning GP2 Series champion Grosjean over both 2011 incumbents Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna, Boullier maintains that a longer-term view was the driving force.
Speaking at a press conference in Paris, the team principal admitted that it was not 'fashionable' for an F1 squad to completely change its line-up - frontrunners Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes all remain unchanged for 2012, as do midfielders Sauber, while the likes of Force India and Toro Rosso look set to retain at least one of their current pilots - but claimed that the move was in keeping with team owner Genii Capital's title ambitions.
"We've changed our two drivers, which is not fashionable but corresponds to owners Genii's desire to become a 'top team' again," Boullier confirmed, reflecting on a drought that stretches back to Fernando Alonso's back-to-back titles in 2005-06, "The plan is to be world champions in two or three years' time.
Since Alonso's success, the best the Enstone squad has managed is fifth in the standings - again with the Spaniard - in 2008, the same year as it achieved a high of fourth in the constructors' standings. For the past two years, the team has had to settle for fifth place, as Mercedes confirmed its position as 'best of the rest' behind the three title contenders.
Former Benetton-Renault driver Jean Alesi recently claimed that Grosjean had been preferred to Petrov and Senna because of his links to current team sponsor Total, despite both the 2011 pilots apparently having strong sponsors of their own. Petrov's departure, in particular, suggests that the team's attempts to tap into the Russian sponsorship market has not been as successful as it would have liked, while Senna has been dropped despite the sponsors that helped him replace Nick Heidfeld ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Despite Boullier's assertions that a title shot within the next three years was the team's ambition, he acknowledged that it may come without Robert Kubica as part of the squad, following the Pole's rally accident, which ruled him out of the entire 2011 season and continues to delay his return to the cockpit.
Kubica has been repeatedly linked to a possible role at Ferrari, opening the door to the third seat at Lotus Renault. With both Petrov and Senna insisting that they are working on race seats for next season, Virgin reject Jerome d'Ambrosio - like Grosjean, managed by the Boullier-led Gravity Sports Management - has been mentioned as a possible reserve. The Belgian had previously been linked to a similar position with the renamed Caterham F1.
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