Eric Boullier reveals either Nico Hulkenberg or Pastor Maldonado will join Lotus
Team Principal also confirms Romain Grosjean will be retained
By William Esler and Pete Gill. Last Updated: 26/10/13 9:35am
Eric Boullier has confirmed they are in talks with Pastor Maldonado
The battle to replace Kimi Raikkonen appears to be a straight fight between Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado after Eric Boullier confirmed to Sky Sports News the team have opened discussions with the South American.
The seat being vacated by the Ferrari-bound Finn is one of the most sought after in F1 and both Felipe Massa and Hulkenberg have been heavily linked with the drive.
However, Boullier confirmed to Sky Sports News in the paddock at India that, in addition to "one" of either Massa or Hulkenberg featuring on Lotus' two-man short-list, Williams driver Maldonado was under consideration.
"We have had talks with him," confirmed Boullier to Sky's Rachel Brookes. "And those discussions are still going on".
In a separate interview with the official Formula 1 website, Boullier also categorically admitted that, not only would Romain Grosjean be retained, but his preference would be to pair the Frenchman with the highly-rated Hulkenberg despite McLaren's reputed misgiving about the German's weight.
"I would love to," Boullier conceded when asked if he wanted to sign Hulkenberg. "This is the recommendation that I gave to my board."
Asked whether Hulkenberg's size and weight could count against him amid concerns that tall drivers will be penalised by next year's rules revolution, Boullier added: "It would matter if you have a problem over weight with the car. I believe we will not have that problem."
A decision on Raikkonen's successor should not be long in arriving. When asked during the Team Principals' Press Conference at the Indian GP when he would confirm his driver line-up Boullier replied: "Hopefully in a few days.
"We only need one more driver. Romain has a contract for next year already and it is just a matter of confirmation. We are being prudent after last year, but I think he is on his way to big confidence.
"We are definitely pleased with his performances since Germany. Clearly something has switched on and he is working better - it is also true that the latest specification of tyres suits his driving style a little bit better than Kimi's does - but yes we are pleased that he is stepping up. We don't have a policy of number one and number two, but we needed him to step up."
Boullier added that if he is unable to find an experienced driver to partner Grosjean 2012 GP2 Champion Davide Valsecchi, who is currently the team's reserve driver, would become favourite for the seat.
"Davide is on the list, but to bring a driver to the grid with no experience is a huge step for them," he explained.
"I did it twice already with [Vitaly] Petrov and a semi-rookie Grosjean and I think I've had enough to be honest with you.
"Davide is on the list because he is a good driver and is GP2 Champion, but for sure you would favour a situation next year where you had a driver with experience. If you cannot find a driver with experience for the team, then the strategy would be to go for a rookie driver and he would be top of the list."