Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
Lotus Renault today announced they have contracted 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen for two years. The 32-year old Finn had previously been in talks with Williams, but finally decided Lotus Renault would be the best choice for a comeback after an absence of two years. Lotus Renault have been searching for a replacement for their star driver Robert Kubica after the Pole himself last week announced he would not be ready before the 2012 season.
Raikkonen is happy to return to Formula One, “I’m delighted to be coming back to Formula 1 after a two-year break, and I’m grateful to Lotus Renault GP for offering me this opportunity.”
Raikkonen has participated in the World Rally Championship (WRC) during his absence, but as he says, “My time in the WRC has been a useful stage in my career as a driver, but I can’t deny the fact that my hunger for Formula One has recently become overwhelming.”
Raikkonen joined Lotus Renault as he thinks it was the best option to make a successful return, “It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault GP as I have been impressed by the scope of the team’s ambition. Now I’m looking forward to playing an important role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid.”
Lotus Renault has been searching for a top driver in a bid to bring the team higher up the Formula One ladder, and Gérard Lopez, Genii Capital Chairman stated today, “All year long, we kept saying that our team was at the start of a brand new cycle. Backstage we’ve been working hard to build the foundations of a successful structure and to ensure that we would soon be able to fight at the highest level.”
Lopez also hinted Lotus Renault, in 2012 to be named “Lotus”, has more surprises in store, “Kimi’s decision to come back to Formula One with us is the first step of several announcements which should turn us into an even more serious contender in the future.”
Lopez added, “Of course, we are all looking forward to working with a world champion. On behalf of our staff, I’d like to welcome Kimi to Enstone, a setting that has always been known for its human approach to Formula One.”
Raikkonen also admitted he has certainly not lost his passion and motivation for Formula One. “The main reason for coming back to Formula One is I never lost the passion for racing except for maybe all the things around it,” he said.
"I wouldn't come back if I wasn't motivated. There's always a lot of talk about it but nobody really knows what I do or what I think so I don't really care what people say,” he explained.
About the deal with Lotus Renault he said, “I got a call from certain people in Formula one and all sorts of things happened. In the end we managed to have a nice conversation with the people at Lotus Renault and made a deal. There was two options; this team and Williams and in the end everything worked out as we wanted with Lotus Renault GP.”
I wouldn't come back if I wasn't motivated
Raikkonen left Formula One after the 2009 season and has raced for Sauber (2001), McLaren (2002-2006) and for Ferrari (2007-2009) and after a long fight grabbed the Formula One Drivers’ Championship in 2007. The “Iceman” as his nickname is, has participated in 157 Grands Prix, won 18 races, visited the podium on 62 occasions, scored 16 pole positions and gathered 579 World Championship points during his career.
Lotus Renault has not yet revealed who will be their second driver, but it seems Russian Vitaly Petrov is the most likely candidate and will keep his seat for next year.