Eric Boullier: “A great deal to be excited about”
Speaking at the R31 Launch on Monday Lotus Renault GP Team Principal and Managing Director pays tribute to the efforts behind the scenes over the winter and looks ahead to the challenge facing the team in 2011. Eric, the start of the 2011 season is just over a month away. How excited are you about the year ahead? I think there is a great deal to be excited about this year, especially as we begin an important new era for this team. 2010 was a useful year; a time to rebuild and prepare for the future, but at the same time everybody in the team put in an amazing amount of effort and we saw the results of that on the racetrack. Now, with the arrival of a long-term partner in Group Lotus, we have the financial stability to build on these strong foundations and ensure a very competitive future. That is incredibly motivating for everybody in the team and gives us all the belief that we can continue to compete at the sharp end of the grid with the strongest teams in the sport. Over the last twelve months, we have all worked so hard to prepare for 2011 and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved and looking forward to getting the season underway. The winter months building the new car are always some of the busiest of the year – how has the factory handled the creation of the R31? In fact, Formula 1 never stops. With the R31, work started before the R30 had even done a single race. In 2010 we achieved a very high rate of development and the car that finished the season was two seconds per lap quicker than the car we had at the first race. During the winter, that same determined approach to the workload has continued, which is a testament to the spirit and commitment of the people we have in this team. Yes, the workload is huge at this time of year, but if we keep our heads down and maximise the winter test sessions, I’m pretty sure we will have a strong start to 2011. Can the team repeat last year’s high development pace in 2011? The plan is to take exactly the same approach to development this year, although our expectation is to start the season in a much stronger position. That means we will have to be even more creative and will look to investigate some new technical areas that we have not examined before. But technical innovation isn’t the only key to performance and over the last 12 months we have reviewed all our internal processes and left no stone unturned. Today we can say that our overall efficiency has improved by 15%. The team is fielding an unchanged driver line-up. How important is that stability for taking the team forward? Stability is important in any industry and especially in the very fast-moving Formula 1 environment, which is intensively competitive on every level. Having stability in our drivers is one of the key elements in bringing this team back to full competitiveness. It will allow us to capitalise on what we learned last year. The new management, the drivers, the engineers and mechanics have all been working together for a year now and have spent that time understanding each other. Now is the time when we can capitalise on that bond and team spirit, which will only make us stronger. What do you think Robert and Vitaly are capable of achieving in 2011? Our driver line-up is still a mixture of talent, experience and youth. Robert is clearly one of our strongest assets and we know we can rely on his speed, commitment and dedication for the long term. As for Vitaly, he showed us at the end of last year that he understands what we expect of him in 2011 and he was ready to commit to this. With a year’s experience behind him, he will be able to approach the new season with more confidence and is ready to help the team raise its game. We took the risk of investing in him last year and I’m sure we will see the benefit of that this year. Are you confident the team can take a significant step forward and challenge for wins in 2011? We live to race and our goal is to win. It’s the core of our philosophy. All the hard work over the last twelve months has been focussed on delivering a big improvement for 2011, and that means we should be more competitive than last year. Will we be stronger than our competitors? Hard to say, but based on the efforts of everybody here, I feel we deserve it.