Not bad for a team who have a substantially smaller budget than the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari! Girl Racer caught up with team boss Eric Boullier at the Lotus Originals store on London’s Regent Street to talk about the team’s championship challenge…
Q: Lotus has one win already this year with Kimi in Australia – have you set a target for more race wins?
Eric Boullier: I think that’s the wrong kind of pressure. Look at Bahrain – Friday morning we were fastest, Friday afternoon Rosberg was fastest, Saturday morning we were fastest again. And we cannot change the car from Saturday lunchtime into Sunday. So you cannot always target the race win, you can just make sure you do everything to grab as many points and as many podiums as you can.
Q: So what’s the right kind of pressure?
EB: You don’t create the wrong expectations by worrying about something you can’t control. Back in the Ferrari days, or in the Red Bull days a couple of years ago, clearly there was a big difference between their car and the other teams, and they obviously picked up some race wins quickly. In our case, it would be wrong to set this target – but we are a team who are challenging for success, and we are a team creating momentum.
Q: How much extra pressure does it put on the team when races can vary so much?
EB: It’s very pressured, but at the same time I’d say you have to push yourself to look at yourself every weekend, make sure from Friday morning to Sunday you put everything in place at the right time. And in some ways it’s good pressure. Then you have to be a bit opportunistic to get the rhythm on track.
Q: In Bahrain there was a lot of wheel-to-wheel racing between the McLarens. How would you feel if it was Kimi and Romain?
EB: It’s stressful! I’m lucky enough that it hasn’t happened to me – yet!
Q: Have you given them any instructions about what to do in that situation? Are they allowed to race?
EB: It’s complex for them – their first competitor is always their teammate, because obviously they’re in the same car. But at the same time they want to finish the race. They want to win possibly, and they know that if they crash together, they have to face not only me, but the 600 people behind me. So they are free to race in that case, like McLaren. But obviously if I did see something like this, maybe I would have to say something. Not an order, just to ease off.
Q: In your opinion, what’s the difference between a great F1 driver, and an average F1 driver?
EB: One can be world champion, one can’t. But if you want me to go into more detail, a great F1 driver will get the respect of the team, will take leadership over his team, and drive the team to where he wants the car to be and the team to be. Push the team to the limits and then, if he’s a great driver, he will deliver on track – which means he can be world champion.
Q: Talking of world champions, do you enjoy working with Kimi?
EB: Kimi to be honest is a good lad. He’s got a reputation, which is maybe a bit different from the real guy he is in private. He’s very focused on the team, he works very hard with his engineers, he’s very committed, and he knows what he wants – as you know! After that, he’s a very easy driver to work with. But the thing about ‘leave me alone’, Romain says the same thing on the radio too. It’s just that one was picked up by the TV, and one wasn’t.
Q: That phrase of Kimi’s has almost taken on a life of its own…
EB: We’re lucky that we don’t have this big corporate image anymore, and we can be a bit funnier. So we picked up this phrase of Kimi saying leave me alone, and instead of telling him to shut up, we just promoted it. And we exploited that through the media – then thanks to that, Coke came to us and said we love what you’re doing, and we would like to get on board.
Q: Will the team be bringing upgrades to Barcelona?
EB: Yes, we will. We don’t bring big upgrades every three races, we prefer to bring little upgrades every race. On top of this, we have a couple of projects we are running, and we’ve run some aero tests recently. So on top of the regular equipment we should bring a quite decent aero package to Barcelona.