Lotus to put finances before driver decision

LONDON Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:35pm BST

Lotus F1 Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland races during the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Lotus F1 Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland races during the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore September 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Edgar Su

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LONDON (Reuters) - Lotus have said they will put driver decisions on hold while they sort out the Formula One team's finances for next season.

Team principal Eric Boullier told the autosport.com website that finalising a deal with new investors was more of a priority than hiring a replacement for 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

"I want to close this (deal), because it is important for the team. It will give it the financial stability for more than five years and it will give us also two steps forward in terms of revenue," he said.

"After that, we can then think about the drivers for next year - but also for 2015, 2016, and 2017."

Raikkonen is moving to Ferrari, the team with which he won the championship, next season to partner Fernando Alonso. Frenchman Romain Grosjean is expected to remain with Lotus.

The Finn said after his move was announced that one of the reasons for his decision to switch was that Lotus had failed to pay his salary.

Sauber's German driver Nico Hulkenberg and Brazilian Felipe Massa, who lost his place at Ferrari to Raikkonen, have been mentioned as frontrunners for the vacant Lotus seat.

Boullier indicated the choice was between "a youngster who can stay with us three years" or doing a short-term deal before then seeing "what is available on the market after that".

"I want to close the financial situation to make sure that we pick the driver on merit," he said.

"And then, if we are an attractive team with an attractive combination of drivers and we can get some sponsors, fine. But that is not the priority."

Lotus announced in June that a consortium of private investors, including an American hedge fund manager and an Abu Dhabi-based multinational business group, had acquired a 35 percent stake.

However, the deal has yet to be finalised.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer)

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