By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen's victory in Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix shows that the Lotus team are serious Formula One contenders and should help them secure more backing, according to principal Eric Boullier.
Raikkonen, the 2007 champion with Ferrari, became the eighth driver to win a race this season when he triumphed under the floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit while Lotus were the sixth different team.
British-based Lotus were formerly Renault, the team that took Fernando Alonso to two titles, and before that the Benetton outfit that Michael Schumacher won his first two championships with from the same Enstone factory.
The staff have changed considerably since those days and Lotus have fought legal battles over the use of the marque, one of the sport's great names, as well as having to deal with a separation from the Malaysian-owned Lotus Group.
It has been no secret in the paddock that Lotus, owned by Luxembourg-based Genii capital, are looking for investors and sponsors.
"It's obviously important," Boullier told reporters when asked about what the victory could bring.
"We believe that we show the world that we are serious and can deliver and that's going to help some of these commercial discussions."
Lotus started the season with two new drivers, and Raikkonen returning after a two year absence in the world rally championship and NASCAR.
The first half of the season had been promising, with Raikkonen taking six podiums and placed third overall, but form had tailed off until the team introduced a new 'Coanda' exhaust system.
"It's a little bit of extra motivation and belief in what we are doing and capable of doing," said Boullier, who had told reporters only a week earlier that Lotus would have to wait until 2013 now for a hope of winning.
Raikkonen, who has scored points for 15 successive races, said on Sunday that he hoped the win would give the team more belief.
"They've been working very hard the whole year but with the hard times there's a bit unknown in the whole situation," said the Finn.
"For everybody, hopefully, it gives a bit more support and hope that things will turn around and be even better than it's been this year."
(Editing by Alison Wildey)