Lotus technical director James Allison says he is confident that Kimi Raikkonen will remain with the team for the 2013 F1 season – and says it is still possible that the Finn could launch a challenge for the championship through the remainder of the current campaign.
Raikkonen has been in impressive form in his first year back in F1 after two seasons in the WRC and sits fifth in the championship standings, just a point behind Lewis Hamilton and 48 down on leader Fernando Alonso.
Although yet to win since his return, Raikkonen has taken five podium finishes so far and Allison said he saw no reason why the team couldn't help the Finn to put together a challenge for the title.
“Why not?” he said in a video interview from the team. “There are a lot of points for coming first and a lot of races left to be run. The lead is miniscule compared to the number of points available, and anyone can string together a run of properly competitive races without mistakes and will prosper. The gaps are recoverable for a team that can do that and clearly that is what we intend to do and what Kimi intends to do. It will be fascinating for anyone who loves the sport to see those battles ensue and we intend to make a fight of it.
“As a team, our official target [in the constructors championship] is fourth which we set at the start of the year. That is a tough thing to ask of this team as it is a difficult sport to prosper in, but I think we can do better. We have the cars and the drivers to go better, and that is what we intend to try and do.”
Raikkonen's form so far this season has seen him linked with a possible return to Ferrari as a replacement for Felipe Massa if the Brazilian loses his drive, but Allison said he saw no reason why Raikkonen would move on, and said the team was looking forward to benefiting from an unchanged driver line-up or Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean for 2013.
"[Kimi] doesn't give us any reason to think that he is going elsewhere,” he said. “I think he likes it with us, I think we're giving him competitive equipment and it's a very straightforward working environment for any driver who comes and works in our team.
"One of the reasons I'm so excited about the second half of the season is that both our drivers have their tails up and both are absolutely on song. We have bedded in with them and them with us, and we are now making the most of what is a very strong driver line-up. It's important for us to carry that strength through to next year as well. We won't have any of the engineering bedding in to do that we have to do when we have a new driver if we can have that continuity.
“For the second half of this year it's going to be great and we're all working very well together. If we can carry that through to next year, which no doubt we will, that will be an additional advantage to us."