Kimi Raikkonen will drive for the Lotus F1 team again next season, a move which was widely anticipated, after no real sign that he was in the running for a seat at Ferrari, McLaren Red Bull or Mercedes, all of whom have confirmed their drivers this summer. There is no word in the statement about the future of Lotus’ other driver Romain Grosjean.
Raikkonen’s comeback from two years away in rallying has been very impressive, he lies third in the drivers championship, the after a competitive season, with six podiums among 16 points scoring results out of 17 races. Only China was a blank; a race were he was in the top five in the closing stages but tried to go too far on the tyres and lost out.
His comeback stands in stark contrast to Michael Schumacher who has only managed one podium in his three years back in the sport.
What Raikkonen has lacked in qualifying pace this year he has more than made up for in consistency, particularly in contrast to his team mate Romain Grosjean, who has cost the team a significant number of points through getting involved in incidents with other drivers. For a a variety of reasons, Grosjean has failed to score points in eight races, almost 50% of the total and only outscored Raikkonen once, in Canada.
Team principal Eric Boullier said at the weekend that he would confirm bothe his drivers for next year before the last race in Brazil. It’s slightly unusual for them to announce separately, with no word about Grosjean’s drive for next year. But perhaps they are keeping him focussed after his recent misdemeanours. There are no serious signals around that they plan to go with anyone else for 2013.
But Raikkonen has used his experience to bring home the best results the car is capable of, lacking as it does that last few tenths of qualifying pace which have meant that victories have eluded them.
In announcing the renewal, Lotus headlines its press release, “Better the devil you know”, an elusive line, to which no further reference is made in the rest of the document.
There is a bit of the devil in Kimi, but there have been no stories this year of the kind of high-octane, devil-may-care lifestyle Raikkonen enjoyed in his previous F1 career. He has said very little, got on with the job and kept his private life out of the papers.
As for his decision to commit to Lotus, despite rumours swirling around this weekend in India that Genii was looking to offload the team amid questions over finance, everything seems to be functioning normally, even if development has tailed off slightly in recent races. THe team had new parts in India and good race pace, but lost some time with development of its double DRS which never actually raced.
“I think my return to Formula 1 has gone pretty well and the team has done a very good job all year so far,” said Raikkonen. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to be fighting for the Drivers’ Championship this season when you look at where the team was in 2011, so it has been great to be on the podium so many times and to score points on a regular basis.
“This season has shown me that I still love racing as much as I ever did. Obviously, I would have not come back to the sport if I did not feel like this. Driving a Formula 1 car still gives me the same inspiration and I feel the same passion for it.
“I think to be able to perform better in the races I have to find more from myself and from the car in qualifying. This season has shown that you have to be on first two rows to be able to win every time. It’s important to improve our grid positions for 2013. That’s one of main targets for me.
“I feel very comfortable with Lotus F1 Team and we share the same philosophy of racing. Continuing with the team was an obvious choice for me and I’m looking forward to making another step forward together next year.”
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