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Kimi to prove himself in 2012

2012-03-12 12:43

PARIS, France - With former World champion Kimi Raikkonen returning to Formula 1 from World Rally championship racing and French prospect Romain Grosjean getting a second chance, Lotus has two drivers with points to prove heading into the 2012 season.

Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 champion, geared up for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix with the best time of the final test session in Barcelona. This capped an almost perfect week for Lotus, which had the fastest lap on three of the four test days as Grosjean showed his promise by topping the grid twice.

SEASON MISSED

Raikkonen, returning to F1 after a three-year absence, said: "I think we'll have a lot of fun in the season ahead and I hope we get some good results. I want a car strong enough to challenge for good results. I think we will have a good relationship (with Grosjean).

"I met him before Christmas and I raced against him in 2009," he said.

Raikkonen was lured back to F1 as the team's No.1 driver after Robert Kubica's recovery from his 2011 rally crash proved slower than hoped. Lotus will, at all costs, want to avoid a repeat of last season's chaos.

Kubica missed the whole season after his crash and the Pole was replaced by German driver Nick Heidfeld and then by Bruno Senna. After a bright start, with 60 points from the first seven races, form nose-dived to such an extent that the team managed to win only five points in the last seven races as a difficult season fizzled out.

CLINICAL WINS

Lotus will not only target more points in 2012, but also wins. Although Grosjean will probably be aiming for the odd podium place, the remarkably consistent Raikkonen will be an outside threat for the title. He's won 18 races in his F1 career, had 62 podiums places in 157 races and his total of 35 fastest laps puts him third on the all-time list behind German Michael Schumacher (76) and Frenchman Alain Prost (41).

He's won the Belgian GP more than any other driver, with a clinical four wins from his last five visits to Spa, the ultimate driver's circuit.

Raikkonen took the 2007 F1 championship by one point ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso after winning the last two races. He produced his greatest race win at Suzuka in 2005; after starting 17th on the grid he beat Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap.

Raikkonen said: "I think people expect things from me. As long as I know that I'm giving 100 percent, and I'm happy with my driving, then I'm happy."

'OVERTAKING DIFFERENT'

After his stint driving in rally and Nascar, Raikkonen  thinks he is coming back to a far more exciting F1 championship than before: "For sure the show is better. The tyres make a difference too, as there is a big speed difference between when the tyres are new and when the tires are old.

"In the old F1 you had to be so much faster than the guy in front of you to have any chance to overtake, but now with the tyres and the drag reduction system - it's different," he said.

Grosjean will also be keen to repay Lotus for showing faith in him: "I think the team has a really good line-up for this year, with Kimi and myself. Let's hope we can do something special. I think I'll only truly realise it when we get to Melbourne and I see my name on the official entry list."

Grosjean may have thought he would not sit in an F1 cockpit again after his previous experience. His F1 career was short-lived in 2009 after he was promoted to a race seat alongside double champion Alonso but he failed to live up to expectations, with his best finish from seven races a mediocre 13th in Brazil.

The ease with which he won the 2011 GP2 series was enough to convince Lotus to give him another chance.

Grosjean said: "The 2009 experience was very helpful for me to understand things and grow up from that point. So it was difficult, but very good as well. The 2012 Romain Grosjean sees life a little bit different. My aim is to enjoy my No.1 passion."

AP