5 Things Eric Boullier Will Bring to McLaren and Lotus Will Miss

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2014

5 Things Eric Boullier Will Bring to McLaren and Lotus Will Miss

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    Following the departure of technical director Martin Whitmarsh from the McLaren Formula One team, Eric Boullier was brought in last week as racing director.

    The Frenchman was in turn replaced as technical director at his old team, Lotus, by Gerard Lopez.

    It was the first major recruitment of Ron Dennis' second reign as McLaren Group chief executive, and should be considered a big step in the right direction.

    Here are five things Boullier will bring to McLarenand which Lotus will miss.

A Racer's Mind

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    An aeronautics and space engineering graduate, Boullier's first senior role in motorsport came in 2002, when he was made chief engineer of the Racing Engineering team.

    He moved to DAMS the following year and presided over their many lower-formulae activities until 2009.

    When Genii Capital bought into the Renault F1 team, he was installed as team principal despite never having worked in F1 before. He remained in the post until his resignation last month.

    Young by team principal standards, Boullier is still just 40 and has been in motorsport for his entire professional life. This is his passion and life.

    He knows enough about the technical side to be able to speak to the engineers in their language and understand what's going on.

    His replacement at Lotus, Gerard Lopez, is a successful businessman but appears inexperienced in the world of motorsport. They'll sorely miss Boullier's mind.

Much-Needed Fresh Ideas

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    Boullier was working for Lotus until very recently, and it's unusual to see a team principal being allowed to switch teams so quickly. Normally, a clause requiring a period of gardening leave would be written into his contract.

    The rapidity of his move means Boullier's head will be full of everything Lotus have done over the winter, including at least some of the design secrets of the E22.

    In addition, he's a different character to the other senior people at McLaren and he has had a lifetime of different experiences.

    That's exactly what McLaren need right now.

Contacts

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    F1 teams are currently looking at expanding markets as sponsorship opportunities from traditional areas dry up.

    Boullier is, according to The Guardian, well-connected in the Middle East and in particular, Bahrain. The paper reports he has been involved in a number of sponsorship negotiations there.

    Admittedly this doesn't appear to have done cash-strapped Lotus any favours, but the McLaren name and image has a much greater appeal.

    Maybe he'll bring them some deals which might otherwise have gone elsewhere.

Successful Track Record

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    Boullier was installed as team principal at Renault in early 2010, overseeing two seasons in which the team finished a respectable fifth in the championship.

    The team was renamed Lotus for 2012.

    Their budget was small in comparison to the big teams, but for the next two years Lotus consistently challenged for podiums and race wins. Romain Grosjean matured into a competitive racer and Kimi Raikkonen looked like he'd never been away.

    In both seasons they finished fourth, beating a "big team" on each occasion.

    McLaren could do with a confidence boost after their wretched 2013, and Boullier is the man to provide it.

Likeability

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    Put simply, Boullier comes across as a nice bloke. For over a year he has held together a group of employees who didn't know if their next pay cheque would arrive on timeor even at all.

    That suggests excellent man-management skills.

    He's never short of a comment to the press on whatever issue is making the news and, though like everyone in F1 he's partial to PR-speak, plenty of honesty trickles through.

    According to the Daily Mail, Bernie Ecclestone likes him enough to have recommended him to McLaren shareholders Mumtalakat (the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund).

    Not a bad man to have on board alongside the often polarising Ron Dennis.