Tante scuse 2, parla Lopez–01/11/2013
Gerard Lopez: "Kimi is Often Misunderstood"
Lotus F1 Team Chairman Gerard Lopez sets the record straight on the issues concerning the team as it heads into the final three races of the 2013 season
What’s the objective for the team in the next three races?
The objective is very clear; we want to get that second position in the Constructors’ Championship. As long as it’s mathematically possible that is the one and only objective we should have as a team. It makes a big difference to us, in terms of many things. We do have arguably the second best car out there, so there’s no reason why we cannot put up a good fight and try to get that second position.
How is the relationship with Kimi?
Good. I speak with Kimi more than a lot of people probably realise and we rarely speak about Formula 1. Of course, recently a lot was made about the comments between Alan Permane and Kimi during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange taking a matter of seconds in the course of a two-year relationship. It certainly wasn’t the most beneficial few seconds, but you have to step back and accept that everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen.
What is Kimi like to work with?
From my perspective, Kimi is often misunderstood. He’s actually a very talkative, very friendly guy. One of the unfortunate things about being in the limelight is that people are always trying to make it look like there are huge fights going on. For instance, we discussed the fact that Kimi was signing for Ferrari between the two of us and it was a very frank discussion. It was factual, emotional at the same time and although it’s funny to say, he’s a very human human-being. The whole Iceman thing actually prevails on the track from where he is very cool-headed and a very good driver. In reality he’s a kind guy, he’s a very talkative guy and over the two years I’ve gained a friend in Formula 1 which is a difficult place to do so.
Did Kimi’s announcement that he was going to Ferrari change the relationship?
For a long time we had the opportunity to keep him in our hands, but we weren’t able to operate to the timeframe – or make the offer – that Ferrari were able to do. For me this brought sadness, as it’s like prodigal son leaving us. When we signed him there was a lot of criticism and a lot of disbelief. There were some people who were saying that he still had it in him and that he was one of the best Formula 1 drivers out there, but at the same time there were many people who were saying that he couldn’t do it, that he was overweight, this, that and the other. But we believed in him and he delivered big time. The only reason we’re fighting for second in the World Championship is because of all the points that Kimi has scored. We’re doing everything we can to ensure Kimi and the team can continue to fight right up to the chequered flag in Brazil.
What has Kimi brought to the team over the past two years?
He’s been a number of things to the team; some of which have been quite obvious to people, and others which are less obvious. The first thing that Kimi did was to remove any excuses from the team. We knew we had one of the best ever drivers in Formula 1 and as a result of that there was no escape from whether the cars were good enough. With Kimi we knew we had a benchmark. This gave people the belief that whatever we put on the car or put into development, was going to get maximised on the race track. That is very motivating for anyone working in the team and in the factory; the fact that you know you’re putting all this effort into making something which you can transform into performance on the track.
The second thing he did was match really well with who we are as a culture. We are at the pinnacle of motorsport and we are a very serious, hardworking team, but nobody in the team considers Formula 1 to be an elite club in which you cannot have fun, and we have a pretty relaxed attitude on a number of things; for sure not on performance, and for sure not on development. It’s not as clinical as other teams, and he fits right into that. For us essentially he was the perfect puzzle piece and for him I think it was a perfect fit. I still think it’s one of the best partnerships in Formula 1.
The third thing he did is helped Romain to develop as a driver in a way he perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise. Had Romain been next to a more junior driver, or a less capable driver, we probably would still not know how good Romain is. For Romain to be delivering the results he is doing so now, it’s really very much because he is driving next to probably one of the best Formula 1 drivers ever. Kimi has been a tremendous help in the development of Romain.
Will the team and you miss Kimi?
The fact is he will be missed and I really think that this is one of those partnerships in Formula 1 that is – and will be remembered as being – very, very special. It’s difficult to think about the fact he’s not going to be in our black and gold car next year. I think he feels the same way. There’s no such thing as regrets, but there is such a thing as sadness even if disguised sometimes… he will be missed, and from what I’ve discussed with him he will miss this team. It doesn’t take anything away from the relationship and it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that I certainly gained a friend and that will continue to exist.
What do you think the future will hold for Kimi?
I think Kimi will do a good job at Ferrari. We’ve seen what he is capable of so we know what a formidable force he can be.
Looking at the big picture with the team, how satisfying is it to be here near the end of a hard-fought season with one of the fastest cars and pushing to achieve second in both Championships?
It’s very satisfying when you have a team that everyone acknowledges to be smaller than the four or five top fighting not only ahead of those with comparable budgets, but also ahead of most of the bigger teams too. It appears there’s a sense of pride every weekend that cannot really be underestimated. It’s certainly a case of David and Goliath that repeats itself pretty much every season. We’ve had some challenges like taking an ambitious technical route with the forward facing exhausts in 2011 and we’ve had challenges such as the change of tyre specs, but every time this team has been able to get up and react and punch even higher and stronger. The one thing we need to be very proud of is that we never stop fighting.
The fact is we’ve scored more points from the last four or five races than anyone other than Red Bull, and that’s pretty much where we’ve been all year long – a couple of exceptions aside – with the end of the season now fast approaching. For anyone to look at Enstone now and say ‘these guys don’t know how to develop,’ I don’t think anyone would dare to say that. I think we’re very proud about the way we keep responding to the challenges we face.
Romain has upped his game and seems to be performing really well…
We claimed for a long time that Romain has what it takes to become one of the great Formula 1 drivers and we’re really seeing that now. He has natural speed, but he’s also skilled in the way very few drivers are.
We stuck with Romain because we knew about the talent that he had; we were convinced of it. Now everyone knows how good he is – so the fact that Romain’s performing at the level that he has now reached of course makes us extremely happy – but it’s no more than confirmation to us. Why wouldn’t we have kept Romain if it’s not what we’ve said all along? He has been gifted with speed that very few drivers have in Formula 1. We were speaking about Kimi before, and with the car we have and the drivers we have there’s no question that we probably have the best driver pairing in Formula 1 right now.
What’s the latest about the investment in the team?
We have preliminary agreements with the company we want to partner with, and we’re just waiting for this to be concluded. This is a very detailed process. The history is that we decided to offer a minority stake to an investor. We consider this approach as the best way forwards, just like any other Formula 1 Team. Deals like this do not move at the speed we’re used to in Formula 1 and we’re hopeful that we’ll conclude it in the near future. With our current performance on track and the fact that there are very few Formula 1 teams that can offer an investment opportunity like we do we are constantly being contacted by interested parties, but for now we are pursuing our preferred option.
How attractive an investment opportunity is Lotus F1 Team?
It’s a very attractive opportunity. The approach we’ve had to making strategic investments in the factory and ensuring we have a strong driver line-up has increased the value of the team, which makes the proposition even more interesting for people who may want to join us in this adventure. As far as we’re concerned, there’s an underlying strategy which has increased the financial value, but watching the team fight for podiums every weekend has also increased the emotional value too. It’s a fantastic journey every day.
Abu Dhabi GP: Kimi Raikkonen arrives as Lotus plays down tension
Kimi Raikkonen has arrived at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ready for practice, as Lotus chairman Gerard Lopez played down issues between the team and the 2007 world champion.
Raikkonen did not attend Thursday media activities at Yas Marina amid growing intra-team tension.
He will leave for Ferrari next year, and has made it clear that Lotus owes him payments.
The situation was escalated by a blunt radio exchange with Lotus’s trackside operations director Alan Permane when Raikkonen’s team-mate Romain Grosjean was trying to pass him during last weekend’s Indian GP.
Lotus later issued an apology for the language used in the conversation.
On Friday morning the team published an interview with chairman Gerard Lopez on its website, in which Lopez offered fulsome praise for Raikkonen and played down recent incidents.
"Of course, recently a lot was made about the comments between Alan Permane and Kimi during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange taking a matter of seconds in the course of a two-year relationship," said Lopez.
"It certainly wasn’t the most beneficial few seconds, but you have to step back and accept that everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen."
Lopez insisted that the situation between Lotus and Raikkonen was being overblown by the media.
"One of the unfortunate things about being in the limelight is that people are always trying to make it look like there are huge fights going on," he said.
"For instance, we discussed the fact that Kimi was signing for Ferrari between the two of us and it was a very frank discussion.
"It was factual, emotional at the same time and although it’s funny to say, he’s a very human human-being.
"The whole Iceman thing actually prevails on the track from where he is very cool-headed and a very good driver.
"In reality he’s a kind guy, he’s a very talkative guy and over the two years I’ve gained a friend in Formula 1 which is a difficult place to do so."