Kimi Raikkonen’s link to Red Bull Racing has been one of the most talked about topics of 2013 but despite the best drive on the grid being open for next season, Lotus are doing all they can to entice the Finn to choose them over the Milton Keynes based outfit.
The 2007 world champion is a vital asset to the team after he joined them for the 2012 season. Despite a few years away from F1 machinery as he competed in the World Rally Championship, Raikkonen was immediately on the pace and rounded the year off with a win in Abu Dhabi. He then won the 2013 season opener and has proved his worth with a number of strong drives and podium finishes.
Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier discussed the situation in a team statement, saying: “It’s clear that Lotus F1 Team is a desirable place to be and we know there’s been a lot of talk about Kimi’s future. We all know that Kimi is an individual and he will make his decision in his own time.
“Naturally, we want him to continue in the sport and continue with Lotus F1 Team so we’re doing everything we can do to make that happen.”
There is also speculation that Nico Hulkenberg is looking to join the team in 2014. He could potentially replace Romain Grosjean if Raikkonen decides to stay but the Frenchman’s strong result in Germany has proven that he is strong enough to battle at the front: “Romain [also] did a fantastic job in Germany which showed he is capable of mixing it with the very best in the sport.”
Despite the paddock’s eyes being firmly set on 2014, Lotus still have a job to do this season and after a strong double-podium in Germany, Boullier is feeling confident ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix: “It’s clear that we’ve had some good weekends and some weekends which have fallen short of expectations. Our last outing in Germany clearly falls into the former camp and that’s the sort of weekend we want to have in the coming races to get our championship fight back on track. If we can continue that push and refine the car we should be well placed for the second half of the season.”
He added that Canada has been the only place that has not suited the E21, testament to its design that it works well at different circuits: “I think the only place where the car hasn’t worked well is in Canada, which can be attributed to cooler temperatures and the energy that circuit puts through the tyres. Elsewhere, we’ve certainly had the potential for good results so there is no sense of panic.
“Germany showed what can happen when everything goes well and seeing both drivers on the podium – especially when both were fighting for the race win at different points of the race – was especially rewarding.”
Raikkonen was due to drive the car at the Silverstone Young Driver Test alongside reserve drivers Nicolas Prost and Davide Valsecchi. Boullier admitted that it was “good” to get mileage on the new tyres but they cancelled the Finn’s run after “the limitations on what race drivers could do in their testing for Pirelli became evident.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic