Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has said that he is seeking a long-term replacement for the outgoing Kimi Raikkonen, not a driver who would merely act as a ‘stop gap’ for a year or two.
Raikkonen confirmed earlier this month that he would be leaving the team to return to Ferrari in 2014, partnering Fernando Alonso. As a result, ‘silly season’ has turned its attention to his vacant seat at Lotus, with Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg thought to be the two prime candidates. However, Boullier has said that he will not rush into any decision.
“When it comes to drivers, we are not simply looking for a short-term replacement for Kimi,” Boullier explained. “We are looking at where we are going to be in the next five years. We can afford to be patient.”
Despite the team’s financial uncertainty, Boullier is not looking for a pay driver that could bring in a great deal of sponsorship, instead favoring the man with the greatest amount of ability.
“I hope not to have to take into account commercial considerations when making decisions on drivers because we have worked hard to build our financial strength without having to rely on sponsorship from a driver. We want the strongest line-up possible to continue the progress made in recent seasons; that is the priority.”
Boullier confirmed in Singapore that Romain Grosjean would continue to drive for the team next season, believing that the Frenchman has a bright future at Enstone. Grosjean has not shown a great deal of emotion over Raikkonen’s departure, explaining in Singapore that their relationship has not been overly close in the past two years.