Lotus F1 team boss Eric Boullier has admitted that being able to keep Red Bull
in sight could be the key to preventing Kimi Raikkonen
from joining the reigning champions.
The Finn is favourite to replace Mark Webber
alongside Sebastian Vettel
next season, but Boullier will not rest in his attempts to keep him at Enstone for a third year, and believes that underlining Lotus' recent progress could be a deciding factor.
"Two years in a row, we have closed the gap with Red Bull,” Boullier told BBC Sport
, “[Raikkonen] wants to know if we will keep going like that. We are in discussions about the technical package we'll have, [but] he is mature enough to decide for himself what the right thing to do is. There are some upsides to going to Red Bull
and some downsides as well."
Raikkonen's return to F1 has so far netted two victories for Lotus – in Abu Dhabi last season and Melbourne this – but the Finn has fallen more than 40 points behind Vettel in this year's championship race following the German's win on home soil at the weekend.
A late pit-stop to fit the soft Pirelli option tyres needed a couple more laps to reap some reward, with Raikkonen crossing the line just over a second behind his quarry.
“I'm wondering if we should have done it, taken a gamble, and tried to go to the end [on the medium tyre] because the tyres were pretty okay, my speed was pretty okay,” the Finn admitted, “It was hard to know what happens in the next ten laps, [so] we decided to come in and put the soft tyres on.
“After the safety car, the three of us had similar speed, so it's very difficult to overtake anybody. I could run longer and we had a think about it, if we can try to run until the end, but we had a massive problem with the radio. I could hear them but they could only hear me between two corners.
“We tried everything that we had, and failed to win. I think, for the team, we did a good race and got both cars on the podium, but obviously I lost some more points to Seb in the championship.”
Boullier, meanwhile, also revealed that Lotus had been late paying Raikkonen, but insists that the situation had now been cleared up.
"It was paid late, yes, but it has been paid,” he confirmed, “We have to if we want to keep him."
The Frenchman confirmed that he expected to know 'by the end of August' whether or not he will have Raikkonen's services next year, tying in with Red Bull's desire to have its own line-up secured at around the same time. Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo is now understood to be the Finn's only rival for the seat.