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So Kimi, it's your final answer?

2011-11-29 14:22

SO LONG, WRC: Finland's Kimi Raikkonen will make a welcome return to Formula 1 in 2012.

LONDON, England - So, The Iceman cometh! Former World champion Kimi Raikkonen will make an eagerly anticipated return to Formula 1 in 2012 on a two-year contract with Lotus, the team currently known as Renault.

The 32-year-old Finn won his title with Ferrari in 2007 but quit Formula 1 two years later and switched to rallying.

"I'm looking forward to playing an important role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid," saaid Raikkonen, who also had discussions with former champion team Williams.


The team, no longer owned by Renault, will race under the name of their title sponsor Lotus from next season.

They did not name Raikkonen's team mate although Russian Vitaly Petrov has a contract for 2012. France's Romain Grosjean, this year's GP2 champion, is widely expected to take the second seat.

The taciturn but party-loving Raikkonen, who has won 18 races for McLaren and Ferrari in an F1 career that started with Sauber in 2001, remains hugely popular with the fans who know him as 'The Iceman'.

He said the two years he spent in rallying had been useful for him as a driver, but that he had an overwhelming hunger to return to Formula 1.

"I have been impressed by the scope of the team's ambition. Now I'm looking forward to playing an important role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid," added the Finn.

His prospects of doing that remain very much an open question, with Renault finishing this season fifth overall and without a win since double champion Fernando Alonso was driving for them in 2008.

The team has changed considerably since their championship glory days and, despite starting this year with two podium finishes, have rarely been able to take the fight to the top teams above them.

Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, Raikkonen's Ferrari predecessor who started his comeback last year after three seasons away, has yet to return to the podium with fourth-placed Mercedes.


While many felt Schumacher left Ferrari too early, Raikkonen's time at the Italian team after he won his championship by a single point was characterised by a sense of disinterest.

Never a driver with much interest in media or sponsor commitments, Raikkonen always did his talking on the track and Lotus will be hoping the man they get is more reminiscent of five years ago than the 2009 Ferrari version.

"All year long, we kept saying that our team was at the start of a brand new cycle," said Gerard Lopez, chairman of team owners Genii Capital.

"Kimi's decision to come back to Formula One with us is the first step of several announcements which should turn us into an even more serious contender in the future."

Raikkonen's presence means the Formula One grid will have six champions - the others being Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel - lining up to start the season in Melbourne next March.


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