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A difficult weekend in Spa, with performance short of lofty expectations heading into the race, and a race ban given to Romain Grosjean. This masked another podium finish from Kimi Raikkonen - his sixth of the season - moving him back into fourth in the drivers' standings. Team Principal Eric Boullier and Technical Director James Allison look to the positives heading to Monza.
Eric, how do you feel after a tough weekend in Belgium?Eric Boullier: It almost feels like a hangover! You just wake up with a headache, you try to remember what happened the day before and then slowly realise that is wasn't a nightmare. Romain was really banned for a race, which it hard to believe. But there's nothing we can do about this. We've accepted the decision of the Stewards, we did not appeal, and Romain apologised to the drivers involved in the incident. We now need to move on. Also, this penalty has somehow hidden Kimi's sixth podium this season. He's now one point away from third in the championship on his comeback year, and this is really impressive.
Will Romain attend the Italian Grand Prix, even if he doesn't race?EB: Of course. He's a member of the team.
Jerome D'Ambrosio will race alongside Kimi this weekend; was it an obvious choice?EB: Yes. He's our third driver and he's able to step in straight away. This is why we've chosen him last winter. To be honest with you, Jerome should have normally done a few FP1s for us this season. However, considering our level of performance since Melbourne, and with the rate of our technical development, it made more sense to keep our race drivers in the cars during the whole race weekends. I can't say that I'm happy about the penalty handed to Romain, but Jerome deserves this opportunity. That's his big chance to impress.
Why didn't you announce the news on Sunday?EB: I wanted to tell the Enstone staff first, on Monday morning.
What has been Jerome's reaction when he heard the news?EB: He's a driver. Racing is his passion so on one hand, I think he was very happy to be given this opportunity. On the other hand, he knows that there's a lot of expectation: the car he'll be driving should be able to fight for the podium, and he won't have much track time to get ready. That's a challenge and I'm sure that Mr D'Ambrosio can surprise a few people. One thing is for sure, he's half Italian and I think I know which driver the spectators will support apart from Fernando!
What advice will you give him?EB: I'll tell him to take things one step at a time over the race weekend. The worst thing to do would be to try and match Kimi's pace straight from FP1. Jerome will do his homework from Friday to Saturday, with the engineers he knows, according to a tailor-made programme. I'm not worried. He knows our processes, our set-up philosophy, and he also knows Monza like the back of his hand. It won't be an easy weekend for us, but I'm not too worried.
The E20 didn't look as competitive in Spa as it was in Budapest. Is this worrying for the rest of the season?EB: I don't think so. First of all, Spa is a very specific track and none of the remaining circuits have the same characteristics. Also, we only had one hour to set-up our cars and, although the situation was the same for everybody, we could have been quicker with more track time. Finally, quite a few interesting developments are still in the pipeline and they'll be implemented later in the year. At this time of the year, the team usually starts focusing almost only on its next car. This is not the case this year, as we'll develop the E20 until the very last race. And that won't compromise the design of the E21.
Let's come back to Kimi. What are his chances to fight for the world championship?EB: We know that we don't have the quickest car, but probably the most consistent one. We've clinched nine podiums already. Kimi is 33 points away from the current leader and we know that the season is still wide open. With eight races to go, we'll keep pushing as long as we have a chance. Kimi has been under that kind of situation before and we all know he can do the job if we give him the right car. The pressure is on us, then.
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