LRGP confirmed this morning that Kimi Raikkonen has signed a two-year deal with the team. The outfit that is set to change its name to Team Lotus thus has a World Champion on its hands.
The news was not unexpected after negotiations moved rapidly when Kimi’s talks with Williams broke down and it became clear that Robert Kubica was out of the frame for the start of the season.
It remains to be seen who will partner the 2007 champion. Vitaly Petrov has a contract while both Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean are on standby. Against the odds there has also been contact with Adrian Sutil, despite the German’s issue with Eric Lux earlier in the year.
When he went to the WRC Kimi had ambitions to return with Red Bull Racing – something he openly admitted to this writer last year – but Mark Webber’s ongoing contract extensions put a stop that.
“I never really lost the passion in racing in F1, but maybe all the other things around it,” he said Raikkonen in a video interview. “But I did some NASCAR races this year in the States and I started to miss more and more the racing side, to race against each other, because in rallying it’s against the clock, really. That’s what I was missing.
“Then I got the call from certain people in Formula 1 and then also sorts of things happened and then in the end we managed to have a nice conversation with Lotus Renault, and ended up making a deal with them. So I’m very happy with that.
“There were two options. It was this team or Williams, and in the end everything worked out with Lotus Renault GP as we wanted, so that’s really the reason.”
Kimi insisted that there was no problem with his motivation: “I wouldn’t come back if I wouldn’t be motivated. There is always a lot of talk about the motivation, but nobody really knows what I do or what I think, apart from myself, so I don’t really care about what people say.
“I wouldn’t put my name in a contract if I wouldn’t think I would enjoy it. It will be interesting. It will be exciting to get back.”
Raikkonen said he would feel more at home in F1 after struggling to come to terms with the WRC.
“It’s been really nice in the last few years, trying to learn it. It’s been easier this year than it was last year, but still it’s a very difficult. But I’m really looking forward to coming back, at least F1 is something that I know how everything works.
“I’ve been there for many years. When I went to rallying I didn’t really know what would happen, and when I went to NASCAR I had no clue how it would be. In that way it should be much, much easier to come back. It should be pretty normal.”
Team boss Gerard Lopez added: “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. Kimi’s decision to come back to Formula 1 with us is the first step of several announcements which should turn us into an even more serious contender in the future.
“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 1.”