Boullier: Malaysia not representative of Lotus potential
4 April 2013
Lotus F1 team boss Eric Boullier insists that the Malaysian Grand Prix was just a temporary blip in what promises to be a successful season for the Enstone squad.
After Kimi Raikkonen cruised to victory at the opening round in Melbourne, much was expected of both E21s at Sepang, but the Finn could manage only seventh place, one spot behind team-mate Romain Grosjean, as Red Bull and Mercedes took charge. Raikkonen's result could have been better had he not incurred a blocking penalty in qualifying, but Boullier insists that the team was simply off its marks all weekend.
"I do not think [our pace] has revealed our true potential in the race," the Frenchman was quoted by Brazil's Totalrace website, "You would expect a better result under normal conditions.
"The classification was not in our favour and the time lost at the start we could not recover. However, I think the team did a safe strategy for both cars to get points, and we were able to maintain contact with the leaders [in the standings], so it was good.”
With the sultry, and frequently wet, conditions of Kuala Lumpur behind it, Boullier is confident that Lotus can bounce back and be a threat at the next few races. Raikkonen was running well in Shanghai last year before worn tyres saw him plummet out of the points in the closing stages, while both drivers were on the podium in Bahrain after challenging Sebastian Vettel for the win.
Ironically, it was tyre conservation that allowed Raikkonen to win in Australia this season, although a similar strategy, which saw both Lotus drivers stop one fewer time than the majority in Malaysia did not have the same effect.
"A very good race to do is take care of the tyres, but Malaysia was a bit challenging, so let's hope for normal conditions," Boullier noted, "With our car, we have good pace after a lap, and with it, good race pace."
The Frenchman's views were echoed by technical director James Allison, who claimed the opening phase of the race effectively ended the squad's hopes of winning two in a row.
“It's true, we didn't have a good race at Sepang, and it didn't show what our car can really do,” he told Speed Week, “The damage was done in the first few laps, when we fell half a minute behind, as Romain was only 35 seconds behind Vettel at the end.
After admitting that Raikkonen was being favoured when it came to getting the latest developments for E21, notably exhaust and bodywork upgrades at Sepang, Boullier is confident that both cars will be on a par in China.
"I think Romain has the same 'upgrades' as Kimi,” he confirmed, “We have parts arriving every race and we'll keep working hard. It will be interesting.”
Raikkonen currently sits second in the standings, nine points behind Vettel after the German's controversial Sepang success, with Grosjean in eighth spot following results of tenth and sixth from the opening rounds.