Lotus owner Gerard Lopez has warned rival drivers they may be wasting their time if they hold out in the belief there will be a vacancy at his team for next year.
With Kimi Raikkonen being courted by Red Bull, and Romain Grosjean’s inconsistent form casting doubts over his Formula 1 future, a number of drivers have already approached Lotus to see if there is a chance of a move there for 2014.
But as well as being optimistic that his team can convince Raikkonen to remain on board, Lopez thinks there will be no reason to replace Grosjean either if the Frenchman can keep up the form that helped him fight for victory in the German GP.
“Romain just needs to keep doing what he is doing now,” said Lopez. “There are a lot of drivers and agents sniffing around, but they are sniffing around just as much to replace Romain as they are to replace Kimi going somewhere else. But we are not in a rush to do anything.”
That stance means that highly-rated drivers like Nico Hulkenberg, who are considering options for next year, may face a difficult call in deciding whether to wait for Lotus or commit elsewhere. Lopez believes that the fact that Lotus has a quick car at the moment means it is in a strong bargaining position over its 2014 driver lineup. He adds that the only criteria the team is looking for is pure talent, rather than chasing fashionable names or those with impressive records.
“It is important to have a good driver,” he said. “I don’t care if he is a world champion or not. Kimi probably could have won more world championships that he did, or he could have lost the one he won at the last minute. I don’t care either way: he is a just a really, really good driver. I wouldn’t have somebody with 10, 11 or even 12 titles if they were not good enough.”
One of the key factors that will help Lotus pick the best talent available, rather than the best-funded drivers, is the financial boost that is expected to come from a link-up with new investors Infinity Racing. Lopez said that discussions with the group were ongoing, although the deal had not yet been completed.
“It is progressing onward; it also sits with us,” he said. “We issued a statement because we had to; our group is a well-known group and we cannot just let things slip out.
“It is progressing and it is partially up to us to decide how we move forward.”