Despite taking his time before confirming Romain Grosjean
in an unchanged line-up at Lotus, team principal Eric Boullier has been quick to sing the Frenchman's praises.
A string of incidents, punctuated by podium appearances, defined Grosjean's 2012 F1 return, and there was some doubt whether Lotus would retain him alongside Kimi Raikkonen
for the coming season. A somewhat contrite end to the campaign, plus victory in the all-star Race of Champions, preceded the announcement that Grosjean wanted to hear, but Boullier admits that there were no serious thoughts about replacing him.
“To be honest, I had chats with some alternatives because they were chasing me, but I never pushed these talks too far,” he revealed to the official F1 website, “I still believe that the pairing of Kimi and Romain is good.
“We have to be patient, but not for three years, not for ten years - it has to be now. I think he has some of the best speed over one lap, now he has to learn to do the rest. Then I predict that he will be one of the best drivers. You do everything you can - from building his environment, protecting him, supporting him - everything we can to make him feel good. But, in the end it is up to him, and only him, to build up and grow.
“We have built some expectations over the winter that we could be top three this year if we can transform Romain's enthusiasm into results. If we succeed that would mean a lot of points at the end of the year.”
The bulk of Lotus' points, which helped the team secure fourth in the constructors' championship in 2012, were contributed by Raikkonen, but it was Grosjean who was selected to give the new E21 its first two days of running in pre-season testing.
“What makes you think that Romain doesn't give good feedback?” Boullier asked, “It was the choice of the engineers and I don't want to interfere with this. What we have to do in the first two days is a mix of shaking down the car and feedback. There was no real strategy behind it. Both [drivers] get the equal split of days over the three test sessions.”
Asked whether the decision to run Grosjean over the opening two days at Jerez
was pandering to Raikkonen in terms of giving him a car that had already had its wrinkles ironed out, Boullier insisted that there was no preferential treatment within the team.
“The car is ready, but it is not giving Kimi any preference on this - it just felt more logical,” he explained, before going on to explain that even Raikkonen's unique character is allowed to flourish within limits.