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Team Principal Eric Boullier shares his view on winning the first race of the 2013 season, how Kimi Raikkonen has continued building on his strong return to Formula 1 and the plan for the next few races.
Let's start with Melbourne - first race, first win. Did you think the team could do it?Eric Boullier: After Kimi's start I was secretly hoping that we could be on a podium, but then during the second stint - where we saw the other teams pitting for the second time - showing that they were on a three stop strategy, then I thought 'yes we can do it'. We had decided on a two-stop strategy before the race, even for Romain. Unfortunately, when he got stuck in traffic he changed strategy otherwise we could have had a strong result from both cars.
How confident were you in the team's approach?EB: You never know what the other teams are planning, but we knew we could make a two stop work - I would not say comfortably - but we knew we could do it. What we were expecting was our pace, our relative pace in the race as well, and it was very good.
What steps has Kimi made over the winter?EB: Well he's smiling more! Kimi is Kimi, he builds himself up - he had a strong season last year, and he ended it even more strongly than he started. He's starting this season as he finished last year, so he will keep building. I don't think there is anyone on earth who can tell Kimi what to do, so I'm not going to start! It's true that the environment we have in Enstone is different and we encourage everyone to be creative and to be themselves - and that seems much better for everyone. For Kimi we do this as much as possible by limiting what he hates.
Do you feel the win in Melbourne makes Lotus F1 Team title contenders for the 2013 season?EB: We're just one race in. We clearly stated that we wanted to be one of the top teams this year, and starting the season like this means that we should be able to fight to reach our target, which is finishing third in the Constructors' Championship. I think Lotus F1 Team is truly a top team now. If we can be in the position where we can compete for wins, then that is where we wanted to be. From what we've achieved in the first race we can build on that nice momentum to one day become World Champions again.
Do you think we're facing a season where having the quickest car over a single lap doesn't necessarily mean you'll win the race?EB: We saw it last year already. In the season a couple of times we caught the leaders in the race because we had a different strategy, or our cars were better on tyres. We worked very hard to make sure that we kept the strengths of last year's E20, and it's true that with the 2013 tyres and the fact that they degrade a little more, has put us in a better position. This said, Melbourne is such a special track that we should wait a bit more before knowing our potential better.
Do you expect the other teams to respond to this?EB: First of all, we didn't have a normal weekend and I'm not sure that everyone got the chance to put the right set up on their cars - especially for the race. So let's see in Malaysia if we have a normal weekend. That will be the test. I'm sure it's going to be a little bit tougher for us, but I'm sure we'll put in another very strong performance.
What's the plan for Sepang?EB: We have some new developments, which is good news, and the hot temperature should help us to do an even better job.
Renowned for his way with words, Technical Director James Allison was left - by his own confession - somewhat speechless after a sublime showing from the E21 in Melbourne. However, Formula 1 can be a cruel mistress, with the next venue - Sepang - presenting an entirely different challenge...
You must be rather pleased to see such an imperious performance from the E21 in Melbourne?James Allison: It was a splendid thing we witnessed at Albert Park. It's days like these, which fill you with complete satisfaction, that makes everything about this job worthwhile and that will be true for everyone involved with the team. We were a little deflated after qualifying as we knew the car had better pace than our grid positions suggested, but every element of the race performance - from Kimi's driving to the strategy and pit stops - came together to create a fantastic team result.
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