Eric Boullier admits rebranded Lotus team's first win a 'big relief' in Abu Dhabi GP
Lotus chief glad to have "Kimi back winning" after several near-misses
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 05/11/12 8:39am
The Enstone team, which last won a race four years ago while still in their previous guise of Renault, had come agonisingly close to victories in both Bahrain and Hungary prior to the summer break but appeared to slip behind the sport's biggest teams in the development race since August.
However, on the back of a more encouraging weekend in India, Raikkonen qualified a strong fifth at Yas Marina on Saturday - which became fourth after Sebastian Vettel dropped to the back of the grid - and then immediately surged into second place at the start of Sunday's race.
Having run comfortably in that position in the opening stages the Finn then assumed the lead when the luckless Lewis Hamilton retired, a position he held to the flag, despite a late challenge from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
And Boullier, basking in the glow of his first race win as an F1 Team Principal, admitted the victory had been overdue.
"Delighted is the word but it's also a big relief," he told Sky Sports F1.
"We work hard, we were close to getting it in the middle of the season and so I'm obviously happy for Enstone, for the team, for Kimi, for the fans. It's good to have Kimi back and winning."
Despite himself winning for the first time since Spa 2009, the success wasn't enough for Raikkonen to mathematically stay in the title heading to Austin while Lotus as a team stay fourth in the Constructors' Championship.
Nonetheless, Boullier believes the significance of the victory cannot be overestimated and is sure the breakthrough will give them a boost heading into the winter.
"I'm confident it is," he replied when asked if he thought the win would act as a stepping stone to an improved season next time round.
"Last year you can see we started with a couple of podiums but then had some issues during the season.
"This season we have been much more consistent and now I can say [we have achieved] one win and a few podiums. But we just wanted to step up every year and this is where we want to go. This is the target we were asked [to achieve] to be back as a top team and this is where we want to be."
Boullier also praised former Ferrari and McLaren driver Raikkonen's role in helping re-establish the former title-winning outfit as race winners.
"I think firstly it's speed," he explained when assessing Kimi's attributes. "He's a guy who can definitely deliver on track.
"I think that's the charisma of the man. He's 'an Iceman' as he likes to be called but he's very pushy of the team. He knows what he wants, he knows how he wants the car to be and obviously his character is just pushing the team.
"With his background and his charisma, everybody's around him and is pushing."
An blunt example of that attitude was Raikkonen's response to radio messages from the Lotus pit wall during the race, the Finn twice sternly rebuking the team for giving him what he clearly felt were unnecessary information and reminders.
With a knowing smile, Boullier admitted that the former World Champion simply hadn't want to be disturbed.
"I think Kimi was just concentrated," he added.
"He was just on his race and knew he could do something. Leave it with me [he meant]."