FORMULA 1

F1WEEKLY’S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ERIC BOULLIER AT THE 2019 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX.

Bag of experience. Eric Boullier packs a lot of winning experience in team and driver management. He is now involved in the promotion of the French Grand Prix.

Q. French GP history goes back to 1906. Is Paul Ricard the long-term future of this event?

A. “Yes, 1906 was the first French Grand Prix near Le Mans if I remember. Paul Ricard is now the track hosting French Grand Prix; we still have a contract running for another three years. Anything is possible after that.”

Sacré bleu. French Riviera, Paul Ricard and the long Mistral straight. “Once in a lifetime.”

Q. Are you happy with the attendance and corporate support at this time?

A. “Yes. We always want more. The Grand Prix was an amazing success for the return. The second year is always more difficult for a Grand Prix.”

Q. Your educational background is aerospace engineering, how did you get the racing bug?

A. “You were talking about 1906 Le Mans, well I was born near Le Mans in a city called Laval. When I was 9 years old, I was racing with some remote-control cars, and this is how I started.”

Q. Ron Dennis once described F1 as a piranha pool. In terms of politics and cut throat nature of this business, do you really need to be a mean shark to survive and succeed in F1?

A. “I think any business is a piranha pool. I think Formula 1 obviously has a lot of egos and lots of attention. You put ten of the most competitive racing competitors in the same area so they obviously are very close to each other and they do tend to develop ego or whatever it is called, may be some of them with a piranha behavior.”

Q. Eddie Jordan once said ‘egos in Formula 1 are so big you can float the Titanic on it’, is that true?

A. “I do tend to agree with Eddie for once.”

Q.Your time at McLaren, in your observation what were the main issues there apart from Honda getting all the blame?

A. “I don’t think it’s true to say that. You know it’s a long story in the past and I’m not sure if I want to develop that story. It was great years for me, it’s a great bunch of people. And I have many friends there. So, I think past is the past and let’s move forward.”

Q. Did anybody from Honda say anything to McLaren management when Alonso was very vocal about their product, especially after the GP2 engine comment at Suzuka?

A. “I can’t comment about the past. I don’t want to say anything about this. It’s a past story. We have to move on.”

Future of France. Boullier pulled then 12-year-old Esteban Ocon into Gravity Management. Now he will race with Renault F1 team under Mercedes Management.

Q.You were involved with Gravity Management, of all the drivers managed by Gravity who were the best?

A. “I will say one who has been winning since then. I remember Marco Wittmann. He has been double DTM Champion. He’s a good driver. And obviously today I am proud to see Romain still in Formula 1, and Esteban Ocon in Formula 1 having a great career. I was the one picking up Esteban when he was 12-years old and I still remember that interview with him. To see him today in the F1 paddock being a mature and professional F1 driver is happiness and pride.”

Q. Esteban Ocon is a great talent and product of French Racing system, how do you rate him and how will he do against Ricciardo?

A. “I do rate him very high obviously. He’s the future for France definitely. I do rate him very high. He will match performance with Daniel. He’s now very much matured and comfortable with his F1 life. He grew up now in the best team environment. He has been in best days with Force India, Racing Point now. He spent few years with Mercedes GP which is the best team organization today. And he’s joining a car manufacturer Renault which is the best place to be when you are an F1 driver, so he will do very well.”

Q. Kimi Raikkonen was racing for you when he made that famous comment ‘leave me alone. I know what I am doing’. Is he the most unique driver you have ever dealt with?

A. “They are all unique. Kimi is a special character, may be a bit different, everyone is fond of him, but they are all unique and I have been lucky enough to work with guys like Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button. Also, Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna and some others.”

Q. What would be the main reasons for an F1 fan to attend the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard?

A. “There are many reasons. First, it’s a summer race we call it. Everybody in the world knows the French Riviera. And I am pretty sure everybody wants, at least once in their life, spend holidays there. That’s a good opportunity already to do it. To be fair, being at the end of June, just before summer, it’s a great place to enjoy the French hospitality. We have a lot of activities.

“We are one of the new grand prix models for Liberty. Our paddock is full of activities, exhibition shows, but also on track, off track and you can really enjoy a great weekend.”

— Nasir Hameed

Special thanks to Pierre Guyonnet-Duperat for arranging this interview.