Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen of Finland returns to Formula One racing next year at the Lotus Renault team.
Lotus Renault said on Tuesday in a statement that Raikkonen, 32, has signed a two—year deal for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Raikkonen won the world title in 2007 for Ferrari and originally retired from the sport at the end of 2009 to compete in rally racing.
First linked with an F1 return at Williams, Raikkonen has won 18 races and earned 16 pole positions in his first F1 term over 156 Grands Prix 2001—2009.
“I’m delighted to be coming back to Formula One after a two—year break, and I’m grateful to Lotus Renault for offering me this opportunity,” said Raikkonen in the statement.
“My time in the World Rally Championship has been a useful stage in my career as a driver, but I can’t deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming.” Raikkonen will be one of six world champions on the 2012 grid, joining holder Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
Lotus Renault, who will compete as Lotus from next season onwards, did not say whose place Raikkonen will take on the team.
The current Renault drivers are Vitaly Petrov and Robert Kubica, although the latter missed the entire 2011 season over severe injuries sustained in a rally crash and won’t be fit for the start of 2012 either. Nick Heidfeld and then Bruno Senna raced in Kubica’s place in the past campaign which ended on Sunday.
Lotus Renault finished fifth in the 2011 constructors’ standings and Raikkonen’s return is to lead them back to the top they occupied in 2005 and 2006 when Alonso won the drivers’ title for the team.
“It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault as 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,” Raikkonen said.
Gerard Lopez, chairman of the team—owning Genii investment company, spoke of a new era with Raikkonen’s arrival.
“All year long, we kept saying that our team was at the start of a brand new cycle. Backstage we’ve been working hard to build the foundations of a successful structure and to ensure that we would soon be able to fight at the highest level.
“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. Of course, we are all looking forward to working with a world champion. On behalf of our staff, I’d like to welcome Kimi to Enstone, a setting that has always been known for its human approach to Formula 1.”
Keywords: Kimi Raikkonen