Following Kimi Raikkonen’s decision to leave Lotus at the end of the season in favor of a return to Ferrari, his current team principal Eric Boullier has opted to look at the positives as he searches for a new driver to replace the Finn.
Raikkonen’s exit opens up a seat at Lotus for 2014, with Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa and Davide Valsecchi thought to be three drivers in the running. Further to that, Romain Grosjean’s three-race rolling contract means that his place at Enstone is by no means secure. For Boullier, although Raikkonen’s exit is a loss, it does give the team options.
“We are currently in discussion with a few people and will make a decision shortly,” Boullier told Lotus’ official website. “We are in the privileged position of being the most desirable team on the grid with a seat available, so we are therefore in no rush to announce anyone without establishing what will be the best for our team and the future.”
Boullier admitted that losing Raikkonen was a disappointment, but he is pleased to have played a part in the Finn’s comeback after he walked away from Formula One in 2009.
“Of course this is a disappointment to all of us, and we’re sure you will agree that Kimi has been nothing but brilliant since he joined us,” Boullier said. “In the same breath, Enstone has once again proven its pedigree; providing him with two great cars and making his return to Formula One a success.”
You can read the complete interview with Eric Boullier on Lotus’ website.
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.