Raikkonen returns to F1 with Renault in 2012

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen will drive for Lotus Renault GP in 2012

Lotus Renault GP - Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi strikes a pose in Renault gear

Nov.29 (Reuters) Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will make an eagerly-anticipated comeback to Formula One next season after signing a two-year contract with Lotus, the team currently known as Renault said on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old Finn won his title with Ferrari in 2007 but quit Formula One 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,” Raikkonen, who also had discussions with former champions Williams, said in a team statement.

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

They did not say who Raikkonen’s team mate would be, although Russian Vitaly Petrov has a contract for 2012. France’s Romain Grosjean, this year’s GP2 champion, had been widely expected to take the second seat.

The taciturn but party-loving Raikkonen, who has won 18 races with McLaren and Ferrari in a Formula One 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 One.

“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.

(L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari on the drivers parade.

Kimi with Lewis Hamilton during his last grand prix weekend in Abu Dhabi back in 2009

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.

Nick Heidfeld (left) and Kimi Raikkonen (right) Sauber C20 Launch Sauber Factory

Kimi announced as a Sauber F1 driver in 2001 the year of his debut

“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.

Poland’s Robert Kubica, the Pole who was supposed to be Renault’s leading driver this year, will not be there after missing the entire season due to life-threatening injuries sustained in a rally accident in February.

Out of contract with Renault at the end of this year, Kubica’s chances of racing in 2012 now look more remote after Raikkonen’s appointment, although he has been linked to Ferrari.

Few vacancies remain in Formula One, with the main focus now on Williams.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN), FIAT Punto Abarth crashes on SS19. World Rally Championship, Rd9, Neste Oil Rally Finland, Jyvaskyla, Finland, Day Two, Saturday 1 August 2009.

Kimi was not a very successful rally driver

Germany’s Adrian Sutil is expected to join Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado at that team, leaving veteran Brazilian Rubens Barrichello out in the cold, with Force India understood to have Britain’s Paul di Resta and German Nico Hulkenberg signed up.

The top four teams will have unchanged line-ups in 2012 but Red Bull have a headache with four youngsters from their driver programme chasing two seats at Toro Rosso.

One of them, HRT’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo, has been strongly linked to a move to Caterham, formerly Team Lotus, in place of Jarno Trulli and despite the Italian having a contract.

Renault statement:

Lotus Renault GP - Kimi RaikkonenLotus Renault GP is pleased to announce that Kimi Räikkönen will race for the team next season. The 2007 World Champion, who left Formula 1 at the end of 2009 to pursue a career in rallying, has decided to make a comeback at the pinnacle of single-seater racing. He has now signed a two-year agreement with Lotus Renault GP.

Kimi’s F1 roll of honour includes 18 wins, 62 podiums and 16 pole positions. This experience and success is sure to help the team make a step forward next year. The 32-year-old Finn’s commitment indeed makes for a vote of confidence in Lotus Renault GP, demonstrating the team’s determination and new philosophy for the seasons ahead.

Kimi Räikkönen: “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. 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.”

Gérard Lopez, Genii Capital, Chairman: “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 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.”

  • Salman

    he made us wait so long but finally the iceman has returned…

  • Sennauno

    couldnt see him stepping into a rally car from here to the start of 2012 season…

  • ADF

    He might have been lazy before, but certainly, if he can run his own teams, then he isn’t THAT lazy. Hopefully, he is competitive again.

  • Infallible

    now that’s called great news!!

  • ADF

    Oh, also, 6 F1 World Champs on the grid in 2012! Let’s hope we have a cracker of a tussle next year =D

  • Butterfly

    There may be six champions next year, but not all of them will have top cars.

  • chandra setiawan

    need an extra hard work to get podium. but still belive that the iceman is still the man….iceman is the man

  • Khrisitan

    this is a great news, go Kimi. F1 needs you

  • ADF


    Absolutely true. But I’m a dreamer, so I’m visualising what it would be like if they were all in top cars…But I know in the back of my mind what the reality will most likely be =)

    I.E. Schumi being given a dodgy car…again!

  • Jackal

    I really glad to hear that ! welcome back iceman…

  • http://yallaF1.com F1 fan

    I am pleased that Kimi is back but he should of returned this year.

  • http://yallaF1.com F1 fan

    I am pleased that Kimi is back,but why did he not come back this year instead?.

  • kaka007

    iceman forever………….wanna c robert also bak in d team……

  • Stewy33

    I will be waiting for what I call (Kimi moments) I will be waiting for his 1st mechanical failure on his car to see if he goes to the freezer for a popsicle. Also, if he DNF’s at a race track where his boat is (like Monaco) will he not go back to the paddock and party on his boat!!!

    I can’t wait for the comical humor that is Kimi Raikkonen.

  • http://yallaF1.com F1 fan

    He had better stay clear of Ferrari.

  • vX-2

    finally… he’s back…. I hope he’ll do really well !!! Will be watching F1 without skipping a race again !!

  • Stewy33

    As I stated in another topic:

    If anyone watched Kimi’s rally events you would know Kimi’s rally car was sponsored by Red Bull… Red Bull Racing is very keen on saying we promote from with in with our junior drivers. This can be a Loop hole saying Kimi is a Red Bull driver opening possibilites for him to drive for RBR in the future.

  • Tamburello_1994

    I’d be shocked if he fulfills the entire two-years with Renault. Lots of folks will be gunning for Webber’s seat come 2013.

    Now with the threat of Kimi taking his seat over, Maybe R.Barrichello can stay at Williams? Can’t do much worse now.

    With V. Petrov outburst last week, You just knew something was in the air. I’m betting the deal was done over the UAE weekend. Senna also left that weekend miffed, Remember? Look for him not to return either. Petrov is now left in a position of either ” Stay or go ” Like I said much earlier, ” Your not in our future plans.”

    I just wonder what R. Kubica thinks of all of this. His mis-fortune made all this possible. . . . . .

  • fools

    lol @ Stewy33. I have to agree with you m8. Never liked the man. Very arrogant and always known that since. Just goes to show he needs a job to back his boyish toy days…Think he is hip with his beani now. Before he was all conservative looking and now he thinks he has fans. I guess only on Yalla. lol. I cant wait for Alonso to blow his doors off. Ferrari 2012 baby!

  • fools

    i agree with stewy33. Kimmi needs a job. thats why he came back to pay for all his lavish ways since Ferrari paid him off. Hes running out of cash. lol

  • Ray

    Fantastic News, Kimi is what he is, when so many drivers in F1 seem false, he’ll be quick striaght away and I dont think he’s done this for money I cant see Renault paying him that much anyway. I believe he has begun to miss the speed thrill F1 can offer, and a hungry Kimi Raikkonen could be a real weapon!!!

  • Sennauno

    I heard €12m