Dany Bahar, the CEO of Group Lotus, has insisted that Kimi Raikkonen has plenty of motivation ahead of his return to F1 next season and has only made a comeback as he 'wants to fight at the front'.
Having spent the past two seasons competing in the World Rally Championship following his early departure from Ferrari, Raikkonen had been hotly tipped to join Williams for 2012, but then inked a deal to join Renault – who will run under the Lotus name next season following a number of team name changes for the new campaign.
Speaking to the official F1 website, Bahar insisted that Raikkonen would make a success of his decision to return to the sport and would prove to be a fine signing for the team
“As with anyone we work with on and off track, we expect him to do his best,” Bahar when asked what he expected of a driver he previously worked with at Ferrari. “I fully expect that he will take his commitment to the team very seriously and will do everything he can to bring in points. From what I know of Kimi from previous experience, he is a dedicated and determined driver and he wants results. He hasn't taken the decision to return to F1 lightly - he wants to fight to be at front.
“Perhaps externally it might have been a non-topic but we always had in mind that Kimi is a gifted and proven driver. There's no doubting his talent, so I think it's a great step for the team and he'll be a real asset next season. It will be interesting to see how he works with the team and the development of the car.
“Kimi will be a great ambassador for our brand. His fighting spirit and pure competitive nature make him a good match. Now we just have to hope that his performance matches the capabilities of the car.”
Raikkonen joins the team on the back of a tough 2011 F1 campaign for the Enstone-based squad, which started badly when Robert Kubica was injured before the season even started and then ended in a disappointing fifth place in the constructors' championship – just ahead of Force India.
However, Bahar insisted that there was no extra pressure being placed on the team by Group Lotus with the only pressure coming from within Enstone as it seeks to succeed.
“First of all, the way I see it is that there's no need for us to add pressure - the team put themselves under enough pressure to perform,” he said. “They know exactly what they have to do, and their expectations are sometimes even higher than ours. For sure the season could have been better for LRGP, but it wasn't all bad. There were some highlights, some strong performances and some valuable lessons learned. We have faith in our partners and the way that the team is being run.
“When we made the announcement about the partnership last year, I was very clear about the fact that we wouldn't be interfering with the running of the team and I stand by that. I think next year we will see a stronger, more consistent performance from the team. We have a very close working relationship with the team. Gerard Lopez and I have had a mutual working respect for each other for many years and the partnership with Lotus Renault GP is something we planned together and discussed for a long time.
“When we made the announcement that Group Lotus and Genii were uniting last year with LRGP we were clear about it being the beginning of a lasting and carefully thought-out strategic partnership. We have very similar goals and a clear road map for our plans together. So far everything has gone more or less as expected and I'm looking forward to even more of the jigsaw pieces falling into place in the very near future.”