The relationship between Kimi Raikkonen and the Lotus team has been in the spotlight of late, not least because of the controversial radio message in India, when the Finn was told to get out of Romain Grosjean’s way. Meanwhile the ongoing saga of the team’s failure to pay its star driver has put a firm focus on the financial situation. Today Lotus responded by issuing an interesting Q&A with co-owner Gerard Lopez – featured here are the questions that relate to Raikkonen.
Q: How is the relationship with Kimi?
“Good. I speak with Kimi more than a lot of people probably realise and we rarely speak about Formula 1. Of course, recently a lot was made about the comments between Alan Permane and Kimi during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange taking a matter of seconds in the course of a two-year relationship. It certainly wasn’t the most beneficial few seconds, but you have to step back and accept that everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen.”
Q: What is Kimi like to work with?
“From my perspective, Kimi is often misunderstood. He’s actually a very talkative, very friendly guy. One of the unfortunate things about being in the limelight is that people are always trying to make it look like there are huge fights going on. For instance, we discussed the fact that Kimi was signing for Ferrari between the two of us and it was a very frank discussion. It was factual, emotional at the same time and although it’s funny to say, he’s a very human human-being. The whole Iceman thing actually prevails on the track from where he is very cool-headed and a very good driver. In reality he’s a kind guy, he’s a very talkative guy and over the two years I’ve gained a friend in Formula 1, which is a difficult place to do so.”
Q: Did Kimi’s announcement that he was going to Ferrari change the relationship?
“For a long time we had the opportunity to keep him in our hands, but we weren’t able to operate to the timeframe – or make the offer – that Ferrari were able to do. For me this brought sadness, as it’s like prodigal son leaving us. When we signed him there was a lot of criticism and a lot of disbelief. There were some people who were saying that he still had it in him and that he was one of the best Formula 1 drivers out there, but at the same time there were many people who were saying that he couldn’t do it, that he was overweight, this, that and the other. But we believed in him and he delivered big time. The only reason we’re fighting for second in the World Championship is because of all the points that Kimi has scored. We’re doing everything we can to ensure Kimi and the team can continue to fight right up to the chequered flag in Brazil.”
Q: What has Kimi brought to the team over the past two years?
“He’s been a number of things to the team; some of which have been quite obvious to people, and others which are less obvious. The first thing that Kimi did was to remove any excuses from the team. We knew we had one of the best ever drivers in Formula 1 and as a result of that there was no escape from whether the cars were good enough. With Kimi we knew we had a benchmark. This gave people the belief that whatever we put on the car or put into development, was going to get maximised on the race track. That is very motivating for anyone working in the team and in the factory; the fact that you know you’re putting all this effort into making something which you can transform into performance on the track. The second thing he did was match really well with who we are as a culture. We are at the pinnacle of motorsport and we are a very serious, hardworking team, but nobody in the team considers Formula 1 to be an elite club in which you cannot have fun, and we have a pretty relaxed attitude on a number of things; for sure not on performance, and for sure not on development. It’s not as clinical as other teams, and he fits right into that. For us essentially he was the perfect puzzle piece and for him I think it was a perfect fit. I still think it’s one of the best partnerships in Formula 1. The third thing he did is helped Romain to develop as a driver in a way he perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise. Had Romain been next to a more junior driver, or a less capable driver, we probably would still not know how good Romain is. For Romain to be delivering the results he is doing so now, it’s really very much because he is driving next to probably one of the best Formula 1 drivers ever. Kimi has been a tremendous help in the development of Romain.”
Q: Will the team and you miss Kimi?
“The fact is he will be missed and I really think that this is one of those partnerships in Formula 1 that is – and will be remembered as being – very, very special. It’s difficult to think about the fact he’s not going to be in our black and gold car next year. I think he feels the same way. There’s no such thing as regrets, but there is such a thing as sadness even if disguised sometimes… he will be missed, and from what I’ve discussed with him he will miss this team. It doesn’t take anything away from the relationship and it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that I certainly gained a friend and that will continue to exist.”
Q: What do you think the future will hold for Kimi?
“I think Kimi will do a good job at Ferrari. We’ve seen what he is capable of so we know what a formidable force he can be.”