Just days ahead of the start of the 2013 season opener at Melbourne, Lotus team principal Eric Boullier gives his views on what the competition is likely to do and in what shape he feels Lotus F1 is at the moment.
How is Lotus F1 Team placed ahead of the opening race of the season? We can take quite a bit of confidence following pre-season testing. We didn’t complete as many laps as we wanted and we did experience a few glitches both technical and physical, but despite this we were able to work through most of the items in our itinerary. We are confident that we have made a step forward compared to last year.
How do you view the continuity with Kimi and Romain going into 2013? That for me is one of the key points for this year and it’s clearly going to be one of the assets of our team’s performance. To keep both these drivers, who are very complimentary, is the best situation for the team. Both now know the team well and it is their second consecutive year together in Formula 1. With this you can build up a nice momentum for the start of the season, compared to last year where we had to spend time nurturing that relationship.
When you look around at your rivals, how intense is the competition likely to be this season? I think it’s going to be as competitive as ever. You can see at least five teams having the potential to win races and it’s getting very tight. It’s going to be interesting to see how the teams can perform on a single lap, but also how they can perform during long stints and on track. More so than last year, it will be important to fight from the front with a good qualifying position and the race pace of our drivers will be important.
Last year there was a lot of talk about the Pirelli tyres and this year we have new constructions and new compounds; how do you think we’ll get on with them? The most important thing is we want to keep the strength we had from last year in that we managed the tyres well. This is one of the key points we could see during testing, but I think it’s going to be another challenge to understand these tyres. The key is the Pirelli philosophy; we understand the tyres, however wear is higher than last year so you may expect more pit stops during some of the races. We still have to try these tyres in hot conditions; we’ve only run in cold weather so far and they have been specifically designed for higher temperatures, so we may have some surprises.
Going into 2013, where do you think our main strengths on track lie? I believe we have kept the main strength of the car from last year, which was very conservative on tyre wear and degradation, and we’ve proved our capability to deliver one lap pace which is important for qualifying.
The team has been pushing to be at the front; how does 2013 fit into this plan and where do you see the team going? There is a long term plan and a clear road map to the front of the grid. Last year we showed some peaks of good performance and were nearly always at or near the front. I feel that this year we will be even more so and the key element will be to maintain that performance and pace to fight for regular points and podiums. At the same time, we’ll be preparing in Enstone for the new era of Formula 1 in 2014 with new engines and big regulation changes.
We haven’t started 2013, yet the team is probably looking at the massive regulation changes for 2014 already… Yes, you’re right. As we keep saying, these changes will be a revolution in the Formula 1 world. Our design office started work on the next generation of cars quite a few months ago, but asking engineers to work in advance is not going to be enough if we want to be competitive in 2014. To achieve this, we'll need to establish a new way of operating which will allow us to be much more efficient. Our view is that, in order to be competitive in the future, Formula 1 teams should forget about the way they’ve been operating for years and should re-invent themselves.