Boullier: Lotus is one of the top four F1 teams

Boullier is confident that his Lotus team are currently in the top four despite Raikkonen finishing over half a minute adrift of Malaysian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel.

Boullier believes that there will be many different race winners this season thanks to the Pirelli tyres and that Lotus are in the top four F1 teams along with Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull.

“It is a prediction we had after the winter testing,” Boullier explained. “It is going to be very, very tight. I think you can expect – mainly because of the tyre management situation – a different race winner each time.

“But we can say we are definitely in the top four – Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and us are very, very close.”

So why weren’t Raikkonen and Grosjean competing at the sharp end during the Malaysian Grand Prix?

“First it was [wet] qualifying and then we did not make the best start ever,” Boullier explained. “After that we lost a lot in the first stint compared to the leaders, especially Mercedes.

“If you then compare the race pace after tha, we were not bad – we were there.

“In Melbourne clearly we had an advantage because again some circumstances during qualifying and Friday practice did not help some teams to get their setup ready.”

Boullier: Continuity helped Grosjean keep F1 seat

Lotus’ need for “continuity” helped Romain Grosjean keep his job after the Frenchman’s tumultuous return to F1 in 2012.

That is the admission of team boss Eric Boullier, who along with team owner Gerard Lopez took his time in deciding whether the 26-year-old – derided as F1’s “crash pilot” by many sections of the media – should be replaced.

Asked by Switzerland’s Speed Week why Geneva-born Grosjean ultimately got the nod, Frenchman Boullier answered: “Continuity is a significant factor in a racing team.

“Driver changes bring unrest. Take a look at how stable the driver pairings at the top teams have been in recent years — Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren. This is no accident.

“It takes time and energy to fuse the working methods of drivers and teams,” he said.

As for why Grosjean, who for the second year in succession will be Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus teammate, is the right man for the job, Boullier stated: “Cohesion, courage, speed, freshness.

“And if he develops properly, he can be made not only a grand prix winner, but also a world champion. If he develops the way we want, then soon he will be one of the top five formula one drivers.”

Grosjean made many mistakes in 2012, including the Spa start-line crash that saw him serve an ultra-rare FIA race ban at Monza.

“World champions make mistakes,” Boullier acknowledged, “even if that happens rarely. I just want Romain to be competitive from the first race of the season.”


F1 to see ‘the real Grosjean’ in 2013 – boss

Eric Boullier has once again played down speculation Romain Grosjean’s place at Lotus is in doubt for 2013.

At the end of a tumultuous season for Frenchman Grosjean, the 26-year-old admitted this week that he is yet to sign a new deal for next season. But team boss Boullier told French-language “We believe in him.

“For us he is a long-term project and we consider him to be similar to (what McLaren did with) Lewis Hamilton. He has shown he is able to do superb racing, but then of course there were some errors that sometimes cost him very dearly.

“More recently he has been a bit more cautious and has been building up again, but I am sure that in 2013 we will see the real Romain,” he added.


Boullier: Grosjean deserves Lotus seat

Lotus looks set to complete its 2013 driver lineup with Romain Grosjean.

The team this week confirmed officially that Kimi Raikkonen is staying next year, but the announcement made no mention of Lotus’ plans for Frenchman Grosjean.

While often impressive, Grosjean has had a tumultuous 2012 season which culminated in his Monza race ban, at the end of a spate of early-race crashes. But team boss Eric Boullier hinted earlier this week that, after a better couple of races in Korea and India recently, the 26-year-old “has his place” in F1.

And now, speaking after the Raikkonen re-signing, Boullier said he thinks Grosjean is recovering from his mid-season slump and a period of caution in Korea. Referring to last Sunday’s Indian grand prix, he said: “Compared with Korea when he had to be slightly more cautious, he is now back in the mood of racing and fighting.

“It’s good and I think he is on the way to recovery and has really shown exactly why he deserves to be where he is.”


Boullier: Grosjean ‘has his place’ after Indian GP performance

Romain Grosjean’s future is secure thanks to a good performance in the Indian Grand Prix last weekend, according to Lotus team boss Eric Boullier.

Boullier’s comments come after a tumultuous period for Grosjean, whose career has been in doubt due to his multitude of early-race incidents on his return to the sport in 2012.

Boullier told RMC Sport after the Indian grand prix: “Romain did a great race, doing what was expected of him. He did a good start. He was able to fight and win places. He drove well with no errors.

“I think he has really showed his potential and that he has his place. His confidence has taken a big leap forwards, he is more calm now and he will build on it,” he added.


Grosjean staying with Lotus in 2013

Eric Boullier has ended the uncertainty about Romain Grosjean’s future in Formula One.

Amid the Frenchman’s first-lap troubles this year, culminating in him being branded a “nutcase” by Mark Webber at Suzuka, Lotus boss Boullier and team owner Gerard Lopez had refused to guarantee Grosjean will stay put in 2013. But, even after admitting he was “nervous” before Sunday’s Korean grand prix, the 26-year-old managed to avoid the first corner chaos and finish the race seventh.

“It was good to see Romain drive very sensibly despite all the pressure that is on his shoulders,” said Boullier.

He told the BBC: “He (Grosjean) has been reassured about his future and that he is going to stay with us, but I cannot commit today.

“Everything is ready, the contract is ready and has been approved by the board. It is just a question of finding the possibility to do it.”

Boullier, who doubles as the head of the group – Gravity – that manages Grosjean, said Lotus continues to believe in the 2011 GP2 champion.

“He deserves to be in Formula One, we brought him back because we believe he has a future in Formula One. I would be a bit foolish to bring him back and then get rid of him,” he said.


Boullier: Grosjean’s career not in danger ‘for now’

Eric Boullier was vague when asked if Romain Grosjean’s constant first-lap crashes have endangered his future in F1.

“Not for now,” said the Lotus team boss, who doubles as the head of the Gravity company that manages the beleaguered Frenchman’s career.

After his Monza race ban, Grosjean was back in trouble at Suzuka when he incurred the furious Mark Webber’s wrath for yet another first-corner crash.

“Maybe we need two separate starts — one for him, one for us,” the Australian, having earlier slammed Grosjean as a “nutcase”, told the BBC.

Pundits up and down the paddock have called on the FIA to get race bans at the ready once again for Grosjean, who was close to tears when he spoke to reporters in Japan. The French-language RMC wondered if Grosjean’s entire career could be in peril. For now, Boullier is defending his driver.

“Even Schumacher had a lot of crashes at the start of his career,” he said. “But everyone in the team is frustrated, me included.”

The RMC Sport report said Grosjean should be able to hang on to his seat for 2013, given that Lotus’ most important sponsor, Total, also staunchly backs the 2011 GP2 champion. The report also said Lotus’ contract ‘option’ to retain Grosjean in 2013 expires the day after Sunday’s Korean grand prix.

“Before Japan, there was no doubt that this clause would be affected,” the report read.

Now, the priority is simply to get Grosjean back on track.

“You can change anything you want in the environment around him, but in the end it is he who must learn to control the pressure,” said Boullier.

And that pressure has ramped up to fever-pitch in the mere days before Grosjean must make yet another race-start.

“He has a lot of talent and could achieve great things,” French former F1 driver Olivier Panis said. “But it’s not going to pay off in the long term if he keeps behaving like that.”

British Sky television commentator Martin Brundle added: “His judgement is clearly wrong in close combat and I don’t know what he can do about it.

“You can’t consciously start making decisions (at the start of a race). And then when you start getting tense about that, it’s all the more likely to happen.”


Boullier: No Friday outings for d’Ambrosio

Eric Boullier has admitted it is unlikely Jerome d’Ambrosio will make another appearance on the grand prix asphalt in 2012.

Lotus’ Boullier-managed Belgian reserve driver replaced Romain Grosjean at Monza recently, while the team’s French regular served his one-race ban.

D’Ambrosio is the team’s official reserve driver, who at the start of the 2012 season was slated to make some Friday morning practice appearances in the black Lotus.

But the E20 was ultimately so impressive that Kimi Raikkonen is now charging for the title, and Grosjean race wins.

It’s for that reason that team boss Boullier has sidelined d’Ambrosio for now, even though he insists the 26-year-old performed impressively at Monza.

“Jerome lost KERS at the start of the race and around Monza that is a big, big loss. In lap time it is nearly a second,” Boullier is quoted by the Telegraph.

“He did a very nice job. I was very satisfied.”

So does that mean the former Virgin driver might be given another chance to drive the 2012 Lotus, perhaps during a Friday morning practice session?

“I don’t think it’s under consideration,” Boullier answered.

“If we can afford to do it, we will do it, but with the championship being so close we want to fight and use any resources or means we can to give us all the chances to do well.”

Boullier: Grosjean hasn’t blown second shot at F1

Romain Grosjean’s race ban – the first in Formula One for almost two decades – has not damaged the Frenchman’s relationship with Lotus.

That is the claim of his boss and manager Eric Boullier, who fended off speculation Grosjean, 26, could be on the verge of blowing his second and final shot at a grand prix career. Boullier’s other Gravity-managed driver, Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio, is sitting in for Grosjean this weekend, prompting the risk the usually-happy Frenchman could lose momentum and – as he did at the end of 2009 – once again slide off the grid.

Asked if Grosjean will definitely be on the Singapore grid, Boullier told RMC Sport: “Of course.” And 2013? “He has a one-year contract as well as a long-term renewable contract,” said the Lotus team boss.

“A priori, he will be with us next year and for a long time beyond,” revealed Boullier.

Boullier also revealed that Grosjean has sat down for a team meeting to discuss his race ban, which according to speculation was applied because the FIA ran out of patience following a sequence of incidents for the Swiss-born driver this year.

“It (the meeting) was neither severe nor relaxed,” said Boullier.

Asked if Lotus will add its own penalties to Grosjean’s official FIA sanction, he insisted: “Not at all.” Rather, Boullier said Lotus will try to help Grosjean.

“This is an important point that has been raised with Romain. In Formula One, there is a very high level of stress, especially in qualifying and the start. We have spoken with Romain about how to set up a structure so that he can manage his life as a driver and all of his functions.

“I would say that when you have your second chance in F1, there is more pressure. We put a structure in place last winter and now we might have to renew it.”

Part of that structure might be to relegate Grosjean to a ‘number 2’ role for the rest of 2012, also given the fact Kimi Raikkonen is the driver most likely to challenge for the title.

“No,” said Boullier. “But we will do everything to avoid penalising Kimi, who is likely to be fighting for the championship.”


Boullier: Kubica stopped contact months ago

Lotus boss Eric Boullier has revealed there is little chance Robert Kubica will return to F1 with the Enstone based team.

The Pole was a Renault (now called Lotus) driver ahead of the 2011 season, when he was seriously hurt during a minor rally in Italy. For months afterwards, Frenchman Boullier said the team was supporting Kubica’s quest to return to F1, but there were rumours of a subsequent falling-out.

Boullier told the Daily Mail’s World of F1 blog: “He (Kubica) stopped contact with us months ago.”

It emerged last week that Kubica is still pushing to recover his driving fitness, having reportedly tested a works Ford world rally car.

Boullier insisted: “I cannot make any assumptions about anything because I am not in contact with him anymore.”