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GP Week : Issue 194
F1 >>> FEATUrE 23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: GPWeeK: Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me today. I want to get this one out of the way first. Your drivers for 2014: when can we expect an announcement? Has the decision already been made on that? ERIC BOULLIER: Not really. You can pick up the drivers just on your emotions like a fan but you cannot do this when you’re in my position or the team’s position. So after these two years with Kimi, we built a nice story. We have the ambition to be a top team. As you know there are different elements. We also have this partner – Quantum Motorsports – who is coming on board. So it was, I think, better to sit down, take the time to think what we need to do and build over a meatier, let’s say, plan, trying to pick up the right drivers but also thinking about what we need as a driver for next year, for 2015, for 2016 and maybe beyond as well. So that obviously is the ideal plan. But we need to close the investment to allow this. If we cannot, then we have to think about a different scenario which maybe or not the favourite one, but still good one. Right. You mean in that case if the deal doesn’t close it would have to be probably a pay driver. A talented one, but a pay driver nonetheless. Exactly. In Japan you mentioned that Nico was your prime candidate to replace Kimi and Romain’s contract is also a formality now given his performances. Romain. The problem is that everybody is expecting us to make a big announcement, but Romain is already signed, he has a contract there already. So I don’t know what people are expecting because he has a contract in place for next year. The talks with Nico, are they dependent on the Quantum deal closing? That’s what I said before. If we have the investment money in place and the long term plan in place, maybe we go for Nico because we want to build the next generation of drivers. But he has said that you need to give him some sort of a clarification by the end of this month which is next week? Yes, you’re right. Because he doesn’t want to wait until the end of the season after his bad experience with Williams, which I understand. So end of the month? [Looks at watch] I still have a few days. [Laughs] so you’re confident you will be able to give him an answer by the end of the month? Yeah. But what’s taking the Quantum deal such a long time to close? That’s not to be public. Because there’s been some scepticism about that deal, how do you respond to that? Yes. Anyway, there is always scepticism for anything that you do in Formula One. It’s a very complex deal, it’s a very high- hand level deal, if you want, which involves many, many different parties and this is why it takes a lot of time. But the strategy behind it is clear. It’s true that in the end there are some deadlines that we cannot miss. So I don’t have the 100 percent guarantee that the deal will go through because we have to respect some deadlines. But we know enough today that... this is something we can trust and it’s just that there are some deadlines and we don’t want to miss them because that could jeopardise a little bit the deal. And what deadlines are these, could you elaborate? It’s my problem, my deadlines. I also wanted to talk to you about the financial issues. A lot has been written about the financial issues at Lotus but how serious were the financial issues? You signed your deal with the Dubai property firm and now you’re in talks with quantum to close that deal. Without that funding, how difficult would it have made next year in terms of the budget? No, you mixed two different things. First of all, we think the budget for one year where we want to be. The problem today is the revenue, to get at the level we are, even if we have the lowest budget let’s say of the top five teams. Together, this level, to be competitive, we still don’t get enough revenue from the business model of Formula One. That means the owners have to cover or bridge. So it doesn’t change anything for this year or next year, or the year after. So it is like this – either we increase our revenues if we can, or our owners decide where they want to draw the line. Today they know that the budget we are asking for is the minimum we can do to be competitive; we cannot do with less. So there are no other issues on this front. You understand what I mean? Whatever the sponsors we sign or not, it doesn’t change anything for the budget next year or the year after. It’s something which we decide. so it’s got nothing to do with the sponsorship, your budget? Nothing, nothing. But what does it say for the state of the sport where you have... you’re a team which is competing for race wins, you have sauber also which had financial issues... Everybody has financial issues.