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Boullier: Lotus not ‘falling away’ from the front
24 June 2013
Despite back-to-back races where the team's performance fell short of previous achievements in 2013, Lotus team boss Eric Boullier insists that there is no cause for concern.
The Enstone team claimed five podium finishes in the first five rounds of the season – the double in Bahrain masking a miss in Malaysia where it managed only sixth and seventh places – but failed to better ninth position in either Monaco or Canada, as Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean appeared to be falling off the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
Although the Finn – who was forced out of a better scoring position in Monaco following a clash with Sergio Perez – maintained his record-equalling points run with top ten finishes in the two latest rounds, he has now slipped behind Fernando Alonso in the race to challenge Sebastien Vettel at the head of the drivers' table, but Boullier insists that, while Montreal was more of a struggle, Lotus remains a contender.
“Certainly not,” the Frenchman replied when asked whether his team was 'falling away' from the front of the field, “In Monaco, it was clear we had the pace and potential to achieve good results [and, while] we struggled a little bit in Canada, we have been able to identify clear reasons why this occurred. We've learnt some valuable lessons and drawn the line under the Canadian Grand Prix. We head to Silverstone with a determined strategy to be back fighting for podiums - we're certainly not going to let two weekends of poor results stop us in our efforts.”
Raikkonen's performance has been the constant in Lotus' season so, far, the Finn equalling Michael Schumacher's run of 24 consecutive points finishes in Montreal and looking to erase his former title rival from the history books at Silverstone this weekend. Although he slipped behind Alonso in the championship race after Canada, Boullier has been impressed by the Finn's contribution.
“Kimi's a points scoring machine and it will be nice if he sets a new record, even if he says he's not bothered by that sort of thing,” the team boss admitted, “Since his comeback with us, he has been the most reliable driver on the grid for scoring points, and it's interesting to reflect back to the doubt some people had about his return to F1.
“Kimi did a great job [in Canada] when you consider that he was suffering from a brake issue, and he continued his run of points finishes. It's frustrating for him and it's frustrating for us that he's finished without a strong points haul for a second consecutive race, but we have everything in place for Silverstone to reverse that trend.
He's had some bad luck in the last two races, but I'm sure the drivers he's competing with will also have some bad luck too.”
Team-mate Grosjean suffered a rough weekend in Monaco, resurrecting doubts over his ability as an F1 driver, but Boullier insists that there is no axe hanging over his fellow Frenchman as Lotus heads to its 'home' race this weekend.
“For two of the last three races, Romain's performance has been masked,” he pointed out, “In Spain, our calculations showed a podium was possible were it not for the component failure which led to him retiring and, in Montréal, his performance of driving through the field was masked by us having to change our tyre strategy. Had we continued on a one-stop Romain would have finished strongly in the points...”
Despite back-to-back retirements in Spain and Monaco and a 13th-place finish in Canada, Grosjean remains inside the top ten of the individual standings, while Lotus slipped to fourth in the constructors' race following Mercedes' double points score across the Atlantic, but Boullier remains bullish about the team's chances for the remainder of 2013.
“We have a very reasonable package to fit to the E21 for Silverstone, with a number of elements which should help with our performance,” he revealed, “And we have plenty of other upgrades to come later in the season too...”