Mar 1, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has spoken for the first time about his decision to join the team ahead of the new season, calling it “a rare and great opportunity.”
The Frenchman was confirmed as having joined the team at the end of January after leaving Lotus, with whom he had spent four years. He had been the driving force behind the signing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean’s development. However, with many financial problems blighting Lotus’ best efforts in 2013 and causing a great media stir, Boullier’s job became increasingly difficult, although he was not willing to talk about it in an interview with the official Formula 1 website.
“I will not talk about that now,” he said. “There is nothing to be said right now. Or let’s put it this way: it was a rare and great opportunity to join a prestigious team like McLaren. I am delighted and I feel privileged having been contacted.
“It was the team that I was watching when I was a kid – the era of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. My decision to join McLaren was made before I could even finish saying McLaren!”
McLaren has undergone a sizeable reshuffle in the past few months following the team’s worst season since 1980. Mexican driver Sergio Perez was dropped after just one season in favour of Danish youngster Kevin Magnussen, whilst Ron Dennis has returned to the role of CEO, in turn displacing Martin Whitmarsh (the designated team principal in 2013). Now though, Boullier is working in that role, albeit under the title of ‘racing director’.
“We have discussed that with Ron: the title ‘team principal’ is heritage – something of the past,” the Frenchman explained. “It was the team founder or the team owner. The idea is more to split tasks between Jonathan Neale and myself. IT, legal and finance is under Jonathan’s scope, racing and engineering under mine.
“So at the track I am acting one hundred percent as the team principal.”
Where does this leave Martin Whitmarsh? Interestingly, he hasn’t been mentioned by McLaren in any of the official communications, nor has he been present for any of the tests. Therefore, it appears to be merely a matter of time until his departure is formally confirmed by the team.