Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez insists that the team's relationship with Kimi Raikkonen
remains 'good' despite the apparent deterioration of the partnership in recent weeks.
Having announced he would be leaving to return to Ferrari
next year, Raikkonen has been overshadowed by team-mate Romain Grosjean
in recent races and came under fire from the team during the Indian Grand Prix
last weekend when he clashed with Grosjean on track.
That led to a colourful radio call from the pitwall from Alan Permane to tell the Finn to move over, with an equally colourful reply from Raikkonen as he ceded position.
Raikkonen was then late arriving in Abu Dhabi for this weekend's race amidst suggestions that the relationship between team and driver had fallen apart, but Lopez insisted that that things were still good between the two parties.
“I speak with Kimi more than a lot of people probably realise and we rarely speak about Formula 1,” he said. “Of course, recently a lot was made about the comments between Alan Permane and Kimi during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange taking a matter of seconds in the course of a two-year relationship. It certainly wasn't the most beneficial few seconds, but you have to step back and accept that everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen.
“From my perspective, Kimi is often misunderstood. He's actually a very talkative, very friendly guy. One of the unfortunate things about being in the limelight is that people are always trying to make it look like there are huge fights going on. For instance, we discussed the fact that Kimi was signing for Ferrari
between the two of us and it was a very frank discussion. It was factual, emotional at the same time and although it's funny to say, he's a very human human-being.
“The whole Iceman thing actually prevails on the track from where he is very cool-headed and a very good driver. In reality he's a kind guy, he's a very talkative guy and over the two years I've gained a friend in Formula 1 which is a difficult place to do so.”
Lopez added that he was proud of the way that the team had worked with the Finn for the past two seasons and that the 34-year-old would be missed when he moves on to his new role.
“For a long time we had the opportunity to keep him in our hands, but we weren't able to operate to the timeframe – or make the offer – that Ferrari
were able to do,” he said. “For me this brought sadness, as it's like prodigal son leaving us. When we signed him there was a lot of criticism and a lot of disbelief. There were some people who were saying that he still had it in him and that he was one of the best Formula 1 drivers out there, but at the same time there were many people who were saying that he couldn't do it, that he was overweight, this, that and the other. But we believed in him and he delivered big time. The only reason we're fighting for second in the World Championship is because of all the points that Kimi has scored. We're doing everything we can to ensure Kimi and the team can continue to fight right up to the chequered flag in Brazil.
“The fact is he will be missed and I really think that this is one of those partnerships in Formula 1 that is – and will be remembered as being – very, very special. It's difficult to think about the fact he's not going to be in our black and gold car next year. I think he feels the same way. There's no such thing as regrets, but there is such a thing as sadness even if disguised sometimes… he will be missed, and from what I've discussed with him he will miss this team. It doesn't take anything away from the relationship and it doesn't take anything away from the fact that I certainly gained a friend and that will continue to exist.”
What do you think the future will hold for Kimi?