LONDON Dec 12 Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus team
have ruled out reining in the 2007 Formula One world champion
after the Finn crashed and hurt his wrist while competing in a
snowmobile race at the weekend.
Memories of Robert Kubica's near-fatal rally accident last
February are still raw at the former Renault outfit, with the
Pole yet to get back in the cockpit after missing the entire
However Lotus Group CEO Dany Bahar, whose Malaysian-owned
sportscar company are now the renamed team's title sponsors,
made clear on Monday that racing drivers could never be wrapped
in cotton wool.
"It is part of our job to do things that are risky, we do it
commercially and corporately, Kimi does it in his own life," he
told reporters at a lunch.
"I like these characters. It's unfortunate if he hurts
himself but it's part of life.
"Kimi is Kimi and it will be difficult to change the way he
lives," added Bahar.
"It's not something we are focused on from a group
perspective, saying: 'This is Kimi now you have to do everything
to protect him from going out of his own house'. It doesn't
Lotus said at the weekend that Raikkonen, a champion with
Ferrari and now making his F1 comeback after two seasons in
rallying, had a sore wrist after the spill in Austria but it was
"nothing to worry about".
STATEMENT OF INTENT
Kubica would have been the team leader on the track this
year but may never drive for them again. In any case, his role
has now transferred to Raikkonen whose services have not come
The team have signed France's Romain Grosjean as their
second driver, dropping Russian Vitaly Petrov in a move that
spoke volumes for their ambitions over the next three years.
Petrov was a competent driver, good enough to get on the
podium in Australia this year, but the funding he brought with
him was also important.
"The decision we took was that we need to bring the team to
the next level," said Bahar, who was embroiled for much of the
year with rivals Team Lotus over the use of the iconic brand in
That dispute has now been resolved, with Malaysian-owned
Team Lotus renamed Caterham.
"Now we have one issue solved, we have a clear identity and
a clear brand.
"Now it's the next step, to restructure the team, to bring
in new talent, technical talent, an experienced driver, maybe
not to go after 'pay drivers' any more, not to look to the
highest bidder any more," said Bahar. "It's really to get more
and more competitive."
Petrov's departure will have financial consequences but
Bahar hailed it as a bold move, just as Raikkonen's arrival was
"It's a brave decision to say: 'We're not after the money,
we try to go the hard way...we try to succeed through
performance, with the best people coming in, best driver coming
in, and make the team better'," he said.
"We have to fight even harder to get the money, even harder
to race and to get sponsorships, but we believe we have a nice
offer especially now with the two brands combined."
Bahar said Raikkonen, 32, had matured a lot and knew what he
was letting himself in for.
"It's a different time and he has to deliver, and I think he
realises that," he said. "If we get the car right then the sky
is the limit for us."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)