Lotus says a decision on who replaces Kimi Raikkonen next year is on hold until the team has sorted out its financial situation.
Raikkonen turned his back on Lotus for a switch to Ferrari after he grew frustrated that he could not be given assurances about the team’s budget. Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has revealed the priority for his squad now is to finalize a deal with new investors Infinity Racing, which has been in the pipeline for several months now.
Boullier reckons that only once he knows what the team’s finances are like going forward can he make an informed decision about who to pick – with Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa the chief contenders for 2014.
“I want to finish what we wanted to show to Kimi, but we could not get done in time,” Boullier said about his efforts to finalize the Infinity deal. “I want to close this, because it is important for the team. It will give it the financial stability for more than five years and it will give us also two steps forward in terms of revenue, which is what we need after the last two years that were up and down
“After that, we can then think about the drivers for next year but also for 2015, 2016, and 2017. So do we look for a youngster who can stay with us three years, or do we gamble on one year and see what is available on the market after that?”
Boullier’s last comment is believed to relate to the fact that a number of top drivers including Jenson Button and potentially Fernando Alonso could be free agents in 12 months’ time.
Although there has been speculation that Massa has major financial backing him behind him to secure a seat, Boullier says he has not been aware of any sponsorship incentive to take him. However, he is interested in Massa because of his experience, which could prove invaluable ahead of the new 2014 regulations.
Boullier is adamant that he wants to take the best driver that is available, rather than the one who brings the biggest commercial benefit.
“I want to close the financial situation to make sure that we pick the driver on merit,” he said. “And then, if we are an attractive team with an attractive combination of drivers and we can get some sponsors, fine. But that is not the priority.”
While one of the Lotus seats remains totally open, Boullier says there is no reason to believe that Romain Grosjean will not be kept on in 2014 if he keeps up his current good form.
“It would be a big mistake to change him but he needs to keep doing the same,” he explained. “It is now five races in a row that he is delivering.
“If he can do five he can do 10, and if he can do 10 then he can do the rest of his life. So this is the worst I wish him; to continue like this, because he is going to have a bright future.”