Raikkonen benefits from freedom at Lotus
Lotus team chief Eric Boullier believes the key to Kimi Raikkonen's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix triumph and his successful Formula one comeback this year has been in giving him plenty of freedom.
The Finn's win in Sunday's spectacular race at the Yas Marina Circuit was his first since the Belgian Grand Prix of 2009 and came just one week after he had signed to stay with Lotus next year.
While seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher appears to be limping into retirement from his lack-lustre return with Mercedes, Raikkonen has shone this year.
Boullier believes that one of the main factors in helping Raikkonen to do so well on his return has been in giving him the right atmosphere to get on with his job – a factor that shone through in his radio exchanges with the team during the race.
"Leave me alone, I know what I am doing," he told them at one stage.
Raikkonen last week said he felt happy and at home with Lotus and that they shared the same racing philosophy.
In the past, he has appeared to look shackled and miserable by the corporate commitments that went with being a top driver at McLaren and Ferrari – and had a reputation as a party animal given half a chance.
After Sunday's win, Boullier said: "Mood? Atmosphere...? You should ask him – but I believe yes. This is something I was keen on from the beginning. The first time I met him I talked to him for two hours in my office.
"And clearly you could see the guy was not happy, because the enjoyment of Kimi is racing and winning. Beyond that, you need to ensure that his agenda and schedule is variable. You have to let him breathe a bit."
Boullier added that he foresaw a future of progressive improvement for British-based Lotus.
"It is just a question of more experience and time," he explained. "In one way we had two new drivers this year, so to build a team, and build a winning team, you need so many parametres in place.
"One is time and experience, and we learned this year with our drivers that there can be ups and downs. Now, Kimi is right there for both qualifying and the race."
The team has yet to confirm that Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who has been involved in eight opening lap accidents, will be retained.