Lotus F1's decision to pair returning world champion Kimi Raikkonen with second-chance saloon dweller Romain Grosjean for 2012 appears to be paying off, with podium finishes in both Bahrain and Barcelona, and team boss Eric Boullier says he has a strategy to keep his stars happy for the rest of the year.

The pairing have already racked up 84 points from five races - compared to 46 from Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov at the same stage in 2011 - with Raikkonen claiming second and third places in rounds four and five, and Grosjean chipping in with the final podium place in Sakhir, allowing Boullier a sense of satisfaction after his winter decisions were called into question.

"There have been headaches," the Frenchman admitted to the official F1 website, "We had a very lengthy discussion internally, which involved the technical side of the team, as well as the commercial side and, of course, our shareholders to make the right decision. After that, we decided to take a gamble... as there were very few hints about how [the line-up] would develop."
With Grosjean out-performing Raikkonen in qualifying over the opening couple of rounds, it was clear that this was not going to be a one-man show as had tended to be the case with Enstone-based teams in the past - think Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica - but Boullier is happy to be fighting for points with both cars in 2012.

"Historically, this team has always pushed for one driver - a definite leader - but that has definitely changed," he admitted, "It's a thing of the past.

"I want two fast drivers because that is the way you get ahead in the constructors' championship. So both drivers have the same status. Obviously Kimi, with his experience, his character and personality, tends to have a certain degree of leadership but, in fact, it is not leadership but probably more attention.

"On the other hand, Romain is digging a little place for himself nicely and is getting a lot of respect every weekend from the team. You must not forget that Kimi has done something in the range of 160 grands prix and Romain has just finished his twelfth grand prix [in Barcelona].

"They are very different and I don't believe they will ever go on holiday together, but they don't need to be friends. That's only my opinion. What I expect them to do is to respect each other and never forget that they are working for the team. Both know that we will never favour anyone - depending on the individual strategy each of them is on. It is up to them to qualify well and have a good race result. We just give them the tools to deliver on equal terms."

Part of the reticence believed to have been behind the signing of Raikkonen is the Finn's notorious opposition to extra-curricular activities involved in being an F1 driver, but Boullier surprisingly revealed that the team was happy to bow to its star's whims in order to keep him up for the fight.

"I think he is fitting in quite well," the team boss claimed, "We at Enstone - and I say Enstone on purpose - have racing spirit. I would say we cannot be compared with any other team, although I am aware that every team has its own culture and personality. We try to keep politics outside and try to give our drivers what they need.

"We know that Kimi doesn't like PR, doesn't like media, so why should we bother him with it? Sure, we need a balance between his demands and the requests from our sponsors, but he knows that we care very much about his schedule and try to minimize his obligations.

"That's it. He is a racer, so he races for winning and hardly cares about the rest! Kimi is like a wild animal and you have to let him run the way he wants to go. We don't have to tell him what he has to do because he is a professional and we want him to deliver on track first. That is his purpose. After that there are some obligations.

"Unfortunately for him, his personality makes him very attractive to the fans, so he is famous. He - and we - have to come to terms with the fact that he has many fans so, to a certain degree, he is playing the game. We restrict his obligations to the minimum and I see that he is fine with it."

While Raikkonen's personality appears quite straightforward, if sometimes tough to deal with, Grosjean presents another challenge for the team to deal with.

"Romain's personality is quite complex," Boullier reveals, "He is very strong on the one hand but, on the other, he is also very sensitive, so you have to find a way to balance these two ends of his personality.

"The last time he raced in F1, he was very young and he was not in the right place at the right moment with the right support. That sticks with someone for a long time, but now he is in the right place at the right moment with the right support and look what he can deliver!

"Fortunately, we have not changed the culture of the team; we have just changed the way we operate a bit. The culture is the same and the people are more or less the same, but we have just changed some processes."


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