| Source: autosport.com |
Kimi Raikkonen is back to his very best, reckons Lotus team boss Eric Boullier.
The Finn triumphed in the Australian Grand Prix after a controlled performance where a two-stop strategy proved key.
With Raikkonen taking his second win in four races, Boullier has no doubts that the 2007 world champion has kicked off the new campaign in the same manner as he ended last season.
“Kimi built up himself over the last year,” said Boullier. “You could see a strong second half of the season in 2012.
“And he is starting the season like he finished last year. We can expect him to be strong.”
Raikkonen has thrived in the atmosphere at Lotus following his F1 return, and Boullier says he has no plans to change the way he deals with the former world champion.
“I don’t think there is anybody on earth who can tell Kimi what he should do, so I am not going to start,” he added.
“It is true that the environment we have at Enstone is that we want the people to be creative and be themselves.
“It is much better for them, and we are doing this by limiting the politics and in Kimi by limiting what he hates.”
Boullier also believes that the whole Lotus team has stepped up in 2013.
When asked in what area he felt the outfit was most improved, he said: “It is everywhere to be honest. There is better co-ordination.
“We have good people in Enstone, from the aerodynamics, electronics, engine, and design. They know what they need to do. It is working.”
Raikkonen caused a surprise in Melbourne when a two-stop strategy helped him charge through from seventh on the grid to win.
The consistency of the Lotus on its tyres has prompted talk that the outfit is well set for repeat performances, but team boss Eric Boullier is not getting carried away yet.
When asked if he believed Raikkonen’s victory in Australia meant Lotus was definitely in a position to gun for the championship this year, Boullier said: “No.
“The only thing that I am focusing on is that we have clearly stated we want to be a top team.
“Starting the season like this means we will fight with everything for the championship, but it is too early to say anything other than Lotus is a top team now.
“And if every year we are putting ourselves in a situation where we can compete for wins, then you can build up from the nice momentum to maybe be champion again.”
Boullier does admit, however, that Lotus appears to be in much better shape than in 2012, when it squandered a number of opportunities to win early in the season.
“Last year already at the beginning of the season there were a couple of times we caught up with the leaders near the end of the race as we had a different strategy or were better on the tyres,” he said.
“We worked very hard to make sure we kept those strengths of last year’s car and improve obviously the weaknesses.
“It is true with the 2013 tyres that it looks like they degrade a bit more, so it has put us in a different situation.”
Boullier conceded that his outfit had headed in to the race on Sunday fearing that Red Bull was going to dominate.
“We were scared a little bit yes,” he said. “Their car here was capable of delivering more on one lap and less on a long run distance.”