Apr.25 (GMM) Kimi Raikkonen can add a second title to his tally in 2012.
That is the claim of the 2007 world champion's countryman Mika Salo, who now commentates on Finnish television MTV3.
In the fourth race of Raikkonen's return to F1 from rallying, the 32-year-old last weekend challenged Sebastian Vettel for victory in Bahrain, finishing second for Lotus.
Five years after his title with Ferrari, he is 19 points from the head of the 2012 drivers' championship.
I would not exclude it at all that he will be fighting at the very end of the championship...
"The most consistent team has been Lotus," former Grand Prix driver Salo said. "They've been fast at every circuit so far.
"In that sense, Kimi's situation looks very good. I would not exclude it at all that he will be fighting at the very end of the championship, if Lotus is able to maintain the pace of development."
It is on Salo's final point that Lotus' 2012 season will really be made.
"They (as Renault) also began the previous season just as well, but soon after they were nowhere," observed the Swiss commentator Marc Surer, speaking on Austrian television Servus TV.
"So the real question is 'Do they have the resources to develop the car and stay where they are now?'"
Even if Lotus' challenge fades, the future for Raikkonen - who has surprised some experts with his re-adaptation to F1 after two years of rallying - is bright, Surer insisted.
"I think he has shown everyone that he is still able to do just what he was doing before (leaving F1)," he said.
"He is a lot younger than Schumacher, and if you look at the past ten years, he is probably one of the best talents that we have seen in F1."
Surer said he could therefore imagine Raikkonen leaving Lotus and returning to a 'top' team, but he wouldn't know which one to recommend.
"Everything is so balanced this year that it's impossible to pick a car that he could win the championship in."