Lotus team principal Eric Boullier says he is optimistic Kimi Raikkonen will stay with the team in 2014 despite the 2007 world champion being linked with Red Bull.
Raikkonen, 33, won the season opening race in Australia and is currently on a consecutive points-scoring run that stretches back 27 races to last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Finn has failed to score points just once since returning to the sport with Lotus last season and is in contention for the drivers’ world championship for the second consecutive year. He is second in the drivers’ standings, 38 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.
But along with Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, Raikkonen’s name continues to be linked with Red Bull who are looking to fill the seat vacated by Mark Webber next year.
“I’m very optimistic,” Boullier told the August edition of the JA on F1 podcast. “There is a lot of discussion in the press, most of it is irrelevant. It is all about making Kimi comfortable enough to stay and happy to stay. Part of it is done.
“He knows the team and the environment. Now it’s about building up the right package. He will then take his decision.”
When asked if Raikkonen, who spent two years competing in the World Rally Championship, has exceeded his expectations, Boullier said: “Yes, definitely, above all the expectations. I’m very happy to have him at the team and blossom in such a way.”
Lotus was dealt a blow when technical director James Allison left the team earlier this season, agreeing a deal to join Ferrari. But Boullier has been pleased at the way his technical team has bounced back,
“It was a big shock through the media and also here,” said Boullier. “James was a respected man both technically and as a person. The technical structure in Enstone is already flat so while the departure of James is a blow, we can recover straight away.”
The team have managed to compete with the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes despite having a smaller budget and despite the big regulation change for next season, with the introduction of a new engine formula that will put a strain on the budget, Boullier remains positive.
“I do feel very optimistic for the simple reason that we started early enough to work on next year’s project,” he said. “In the middle of last year, we had a dedicated team working on 2014.
“We also have a strong relationship with Renault and having the engine manufacturer working closely with you is very important so we can simulate what we can expect for next year.”
To listen to more from Eric Boullier, plus an interview with Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, make sure you listen to the August edition of the JA on F1 podcast available to download via the iTunes store or directly here.