Lotus F1 team owner Gerard Lopez says that he had no doubts that Kimi Raikkonen would be able to return to his previous best, unlike others who questioned the wisdom of signing the Finn after two years out of the sport.
Despite including a world championship campaign in 2007, Raikkonen's first stint in F1 earned him the reputation of having a laissez-faire
attitude and he did little to disguise his contempt for extra-curricular commitments to sponsors and the media, leading to suggestions that Lotus' decision to hire him for 2012 could cause headaches for the team. The Finn, however, proved the doubters wrong by being a podium threat for much of the year, before eventually taking victory in Abu Dhabi en route
to third overall in the standings.
"That makes me smile, as I was sure it would be like this," Lopez told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport
newspaper, "Raikkonen put in a lot of work to compliment his talent and the results are the fruit of that.
“Here at Lotus, he feels like he is being used for what's most important and, for the rest of the time, he is free. He's found a balance, he has enthusiasm and desire. I wouldn't dream of 'controlling' him - I want drivers, not robots."
Lopez also revealed that he was in no rush to sell the team, as had been rumoured in recent months. Dismissing suggestions that the Enstone squad was in financial problems now that it has attracted several high-profile backers including Coca-Cola, which comes on board for 2013 with its Burn energy drink brand, the Luxembourg-based businessman insists that being in F1 was good for building relationships.
"We have always said that, if there are investors who want to come in, we are ready, but I have never wanted to sell the team,” he explained, “For me, for Genii Capital, F1 is a great platform from which to develop business with the sponsors we talk to."
Lotus heads into 2013 with an unchanged line-up, having decided to re-sign Romain Grosjean alongside Raikkonen for a second term. The French youngster endured a trying 2012 campaign, blending podium finishes with an unwanted reputation for making costly mistakes, but Lopez clearly sees untapped potential in the former GP2 champion.
"Romain wasn't guilty of all he was accused of," he insisted, “Things were exaggerated, and he paid for the mistakes of others when he was suspended for the Italian Grand Prix. There were four drivers who were reprimanded more often than he was, but they were able to take part in every race....”
Lopez has made no secret of his desire to usurp one of the current 'big three' teams in 2013 and, having pushed Raikkonen ahead of both McLaren drivers in the individual standings, hopes that a bigger contribution from Grosjean can help propel the team into the leading trio this time around.
"Romain has always shown that he can drive quickly, so I am expecting a lot more from him this season," he concluded.