Romain Grosjean to partner Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus Renault
Romain Grosjean will join returning former world champion Kimi Raikkonen next year at Lotus Renault, the team confirm
Renault have confirmed that GP2 Series champion Romain Grosjean will race alongside returning former world champion Kimi Raikkonen as the team rebrands as Lotus next season.
The 25-year-old, who had been in line to replace injured driver Robert Kubica before Raikkonen’s appointment earlier this month, drove for the Enstone-based team in 2009, making seven starts.
The news will come as a shock to Russian driver Vitaly Petrov, who had performed well in a poor car in 2011, finishing 10th in the world drivers’ championship and securing his maiden Formula 1 podium in the first race in Australia.
He was expected to start the 2012 season, while Bruno Senna, who completed the season alongside Petrov after replacing Nick Heidfeld as cover for Kubica, is also without a drive.
“I am thrilled to be one of the team’s race drivers in 2012,” Grosjean said. “There’s a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next year’s car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity.
“To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and returning to Formula One will be a great experience, and I’m sure will help raise my level of performance too.”
Despite entering Formula 1 at a difficult time for Renault following the departure of Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr half-way through the 2009 season in the wake of the race-fixing scandal, Grosjean rebuilt his career by dropping down to GP2, having already won the F3 Euroseries, and GP2 Asia Series prior to joining Renault in 2008 as a test driver.
As well as capturing the title in the F1 feeder series, the Frenchman appeared for Renault in Friday practice at the final two races of the season in Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
“I feel that my successful season in GP2 Series has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport,” Grosjean added.
“Returning to Enstone as a race driver feels like coming home. I will not disappoint and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been possible. Total, which supports me since 2006, and Gravity Sport Management, are first on this list.”
“I’m delighted that Romain Grosjean will be beside Kimi next year,” added Lotus Renault team principal Eric Boullier. “Romain has shown a lot of maturity in the past 12 months both through his GP2 Series victory and his development as third driver with us. We were impressed when he drove for us in the first practice sessions in Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
“We are confident that drafting him in to one of our driver’s seats will help us in our rebuilding process. I would like to thank Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna for their contribution to the team’s performance this year and I wish them all the best for the future.”
Renault finalising their driver line-up for 2012 leaves just six race seats available for next season, two at Force India and Toro Rosso, with one apiece at Williams at HRT alongside Pastor Maldonado and Pedro de la Rosa respectively.
Force India and Toro Rosso have several talented drivers as options, while drivers with significant sponsorship packages are likely to be integral to securing a drive with Williams and HRT.