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How sponsor's exit has helped Lotus F1

Lotus F1 chief Eric Boullier says the team's finances are strong despite parting with main sponsor.

Story highlights

  • Lotus team principal Eric Boullier is impressed with the team's start to the season
  • Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean have collected 84 points for the team in five races
  • 2007 world champion Raikkonen and Grosjean both finished on the podium in Bahrain
  • Team performing well despite parting with title sponsor Group Lotus

At the start of the 2012 Formula One season, with a driver pairing that comprised of a virtual rookie and a former world champion who had been out of the sport for two years, little was expected of Lotus.

But the combination of 2007 title winner Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, whose only previous experience in F1 was seven unspectacular races for the team in 2009, has flourished, collecting 84 points from the season's opening five races.

The highlight of a promising start was a double podium finish for Lotus in Bahrain, a result which contributed to Raikkonen's current position of fourth in the early-season drivers' standings, with Grosjean eighth ahead of the next race in Monaco on May 27.

The team's on-track success has been played out against a backdrop of financial upheaval, with owner Genie Capital having terminated a lucrative longterm sponsorship deal with Group Lotus -- owned by the Malaysian car manufacturer Proton.

The UK-based outfit will, however, continue to race under one of the most famous names in motorsport.

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Team principal Eric Boullier insists that there are sufficient sponsorship deals to plug the monetary gap created by Group Lotus' departure.

"We have not lost our title sponsor -- not in the real sense of the word lost. We have decided to end the contract, or the agreement, we had with them at the middle of last year," Boullier told the official F1 website.

"We wanted to change our strategy, and actually we are, if I may say so, wealthier than we were before. We have bigger budgets this year and will keep the name Lotus under a license agreement.

"We have signed some big names as sponsors. If you look at my shirt, there are two new names on it. We have been able to sign deals with Unilever and Microsoft, which are two really big names."

Boullier said the Bahrain race was a fitting tribute to the work put in by the team -- who previously competed under the Renault name.

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"It was a fantastic reward. We haven't performed in that mode since 2006," he said.

"The fact is we were expecting to deliver something after the first three races, but we had to come to terms with the little glitches we had. When that was done -- voila -- it finally worked."

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Boullier said there was a good relationship building between experienced former Ferrari driver Raikkonen, who is is in his 10th F1 campaign, and Frenchman Grosjean -- a 26-year-old who has yet to complete a full season.

"Obviously Kimi, with his experience, his character and personality, tends to have a certain degree of leadership. But in fact it is not leadership but probably more attention," Boullier said.

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"On the other hand Romain is digging a little place for himself nicely and is getting a lot of respect every weekend from the team.

"You must not forget that Kimi has done something in the range of 160 grands prix and Romain has just finished his 12th grand prix this weekend."

Boullier said the 32-year-old Raikkonen, who collected another podium finish at last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, has adapted well to life at Lotus' Enstone headquarters.

"Kimi doesn't like PR, doesn't like media. So why should we bother him with it? Sure we need a balance between his demands and the requests from our sponsors," Boullier said.

"But he knows that we care very much about his schedule and try to minimize his obligations. That's it. He is a racer so he races for winning and hardly cares about the rest!

"Kimi is like a wild animal and you have to let him run the way he wants to go. We don't have to tell him what he has to do because he is a professional and we want him to deliver on track first."