Kimi Raikkonen set for Formula 1 return with Renault in 2012
Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will return to the sport next season after signing two-year deal with Renault
Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will return to Formula 1 racing next year after signing a two-year deal with Renault.
The 32-year-old Finn, who won the world drivers’ championship with Ferrari in 2007, left F1 at the end of the 2009 season.
He had been in talks with the ailing Williams team, but after a deal fell through he was snapped up by Renault, set to be rebranded as Lotus for 2012.
When Ferrari signed Renault’s Fernando Alonso, Raikkonen headed off to the World Rally Championship, where he spent the last two seasons while also competing in one-off races in other series.
Despite continually being linked with a return to F1, the former Sauber and McLaren driver denied all reports, claiming he had no desire to return.
However, with Renault forced to find another driver for the start of 2012 after injured driver Robert Kubica confirmed he will not be ready for the start of the season, team principal Eric Boullier has pulled off a masterstroke in bringing back one of F1’s more interesting characters of the last decade on a two-year deal.
“I’m delighted to be coming back to Formula 1 after a two-year break, and I’m grateful to Lotus Renault GP for offering me this opportunity,” Raikkonen said.
“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.
“It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault GP 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.”
Renault chairman GÃ©rard Lopez, added: “Kimi’s decision to come back to Formula 1 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.”
Raikkonen’s return will have a dramatic effect on the rest of the grid, with Bruno Senna, who finished the season with Renault, and reserve driver Romain Grosjean, who won the feeder GP2 Championship, both in line to stand in for Kubica alongside Vitaly Petrov.
Petrov’s future is now also in doubt, with Boullier recently admitting that they are already in negotiations with Kubica’s management over a new deal.
Next season will see an unprecedented six world champions line up on the grid for five different teams as Michael Schumacher returns for a third season since his comeback.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will be looking to bounce back from an otherwise indifferent season, while McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will both be hoping they can stop Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel from winning a third successive title.