Feb.14 (GMM) Lotus team boss Gerard Lopez has hit back at suggestions that Kimi Raikkonen’s public persona is an accurate reflection of the true 2007 world champion.
While the winner of 18 grands prix with Ferrari and McLaren is undoubtedly among F1’s most naturally gifted drivers ever, he also has a reputation for being lazy, unmotivated and uncooperative with the media and sponsors.
But after signing the 32-year-old Finn – who is nicknamed the ‘Iceman’ – for his return to F1 in 2012 after two years in world rallying, Lotus insists it is more happy with Raikkonen so far.
“We feel very good with him and he clearly feels at home,” team owner Lopez is quoted by the Sun.
“He smiles a lot when he’s with us. But most importantly he says he feels like part of the family.
“I think Kimi has a public image that honestly from what we’ve seen does not translate into how he really is.
“He’s a very hard worker, very good at providing feedback and has a good team spirit.”
Lopez hinted, however, that he and team boss Eric Boullier did have some doubts about Raikkonen when they were considering their 2012 lineup.
“Once we talked to him, once we understood why he was coming back to F1, we really felt comfortable,” he insisted.
“If you look at what happened at the (Jerez) test nobody can say he’s not on the pace.”
Raikkonen, 32, made his F1 debut at the 2001 Australian GP with Sauber and since then made 156 starts, scoring 18 wins and the one world championship with Ferrari.
His first win was at the 2003 Malaysian GP driving for McLaren.
He left F1 at the end of 2009, making way for Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari team.