Boullier has nothing but ‘time’ for Kimi

What a difference a year makes. In 2011 Lotus F1 team boss Eric Boullier was nonplussed with the performance of his drivers and let the world know it. Nick Heidfeld (and later Bruno Senna) and Vitaly Petrov were not performing at a level Boullier expected and while the former was sitting in for an injured Robert Kubica, one wondered what exactly the expectations were as both drivers were driving a car incapable of race wins.

Twelve months later the team is still searching for that elusive win with Romain Grosjean securing a podium in Canada (not unlike Heidfeld and Petrov’s podium finishes in 2011) and veteran Kimi Raikkonen struggling behind the wheel. According to Boullier, this is just normal as he told AUTOSPORT:

“It is all part of the understanding between team and driver,” Boullier said. “We had two new drivers in the team and each driver has his own driving style and characteristics.

“It is just part of the learning process – and teams like McLaren, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, they have driver line-ups that they are used to working with.

“This year we had two new drivers – which included one nearly complete rookie. And with Kimi, we just had to take time to adjust. It has just been part of the process to understand his driving style and make adjustments to know how best to work together.”

Is this the kinder, gentler Boullier? The terse words in 2011 seem to have gone with patience and understanding supplanted for 2012. Gone too are the comparisons of Kimi Raikkonen, as a returning champion, and Michael Schumacher as both veterans struggle to find harmony on their return to the sport after a prolonged hiatus. Both Schumacher and Raikkonen have struggled to come to grips with the steering and tire characteristics of the current format car in Formula One but surely Schumacher is the only one of the two facing strong criticism.

As with most things Kimi, he’s a likable chap and patience should be given as it will take time to acclimate to the new format. The champion will most likely find his form and like Heidfeld and Petrov of 2011, a publicly critical Boullier will not help matters. The team boss seems to have tempered his expectations in 2012 and has a young driver fighting at the front in Grosjean so things are not as dour as they seem but we’ll see just how patient the Frenchman is toward the end of the 2012 season if Kimi hasn’t raised his game.

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