Joan Villadelprat is full of praise for Lotus, a team he says still has the blood of Benetton and Renault flowing in its veins.
Spaniard Villadelprat, who was team manager at the Enstone based team when Michael Schumacher won his first titles in 1994 and 1995, was speaking the day after Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finished second and third in Hungary in the black and gold-liveried Lotuses.
“What counts is that the team has always maintained its competitive structure and the only changes in personnel were the ones that were needed,” he wrote in his El Pais column. “This has given them a stability that most don’t have. It’s a solid and flawless team.
“They have demonstrated in the past that they can make a winning car: we did it with Schumacher and they did it again must more recently with Fernando Alonso. Although the owners have changed, the structure has survived.
“Eric Boullier, the team boss, and James Allison, the technical head, are doing an outstanding job, having restored a winning feeling again.”
The team’s last win was Alonso’s at Fuji in 2008.
Joan Villadelprat has slammed the anti-Red Bull “witch hunt” that is casting the reigning world champions as F1 cheats.
Recently, the energy drink owned team has been told not only to modify small holes in the floor ahead of the RB8’s rear wheels, but also holes in the wheel hub that reportedly also gave an illegal aerodynamic benefit. Villadelprat, a former veteran F1 engineer and manager, wrote in El Pais newspaper that top team rivals McLaren and Ferrari are having to “do anything” to get back on terms with the sport’s recently dominant team. He said the saga surrounding the apparently minor floor and hub holes was “nonsense”.
“The regulation specifies that there can be no hole (in the floor) … but it is no longer considered a hole if you put a slot to the outside. Then it becomes a legal system. And that solution is used by almost all of the teams.
“Even worse is that no one even made a formal protest. If someone is doing something illegal then you should protest it, as has happened before, not throw dirt on a rival through the media and the gossip of the paddock,” he charged.
“Neither Ferrari nor McLaren wanted to enter directly into this war against Red Bull, but instead subliminally suggested to the FIA an intervention.
“This puts a halo of cheating around the Austrian team that is totally unfounded,” Villadelprat said. “It’s like a witch hunt,” he charged, “which is something that I lived through at Benetton in 1994 when Michael Schumacher was dominating and the other teams accused us of using traction control.
“There are many who react badly to the creativity of their rivals because it covers up their own negligence. But with all the obstacles, Red Bull remains competitive and they are the team that seems to best understand the behaviour of these tyres, which is one of the keys that will decide this championship,” said Villadelprat.