Sep 12 2013
Lotus are beginning their search for a new driver after Ferrari confirmed the capture of Kimi Raikkonen on a two-year deal.
Raikkonen, who will leave Lotus to join Ferrari as the replacement for Felipe Massa next season, won the 2007 world championship during his first stint with the Italian team but left two years later after apparently growing disillusioned with the sport.
Two indifferent years in rallying reignited his passion for F1, and he has impressed since returning at the start of 2012, winning two races and finishing third in the drivers' championship last season.
"I am really happy to be returning to Maranello where I previously spent three fantastic and very successful years," Raikkonen told ferrari.com.
"I have so many memories of my time at Ferrari, memories which have stayed with me these past years, first and foremost, winning the world championship title in 2007, which was really unforgettable."
The move pairs the rapid Finn with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in what will arguably be the strongest driver line-up on the grid.
"I can't wait to be driving a Prancing Horse car again and to reacquaint myself with so many people with whom I had such close links, as well as working with Fernando, whom I consider a great driver, in order to bring the team the success it deserves," Raikkonen added.
Raikkonen saw off the challenge of both Massa and Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg to land one of the most coveted seats in F1 and is sure to prove a thorn in the side of Alonso, who has enjoyed undisputed number one status alongside Massa since joining the team.
Hulkenberg is the favourite to replace the outgoing Raikkonen at Lotus, although Massa and Williams' Pastor Maldonado are also in the frame.
Doubts also persist over the future of Lotus' second driver Romain Grosjean, who has turned in inconsistent performances over the past two years, although it seems highly unlikely the team would want to begin 2014 with a completely new driver line-up.
Meanwhile, Lotus reacted to news of Raikkonen's departure on Wednesday with a bizarre message on Twitter, which featured a graphic image of two rabbits mating and the accompanying message: "So #Kimi is off to #Ferrari for 2014; it hurts a little bit... #F1".
Challenged by a number of Facebook followers to explain what the message was implying, Lotus replied: "It's just an expression of our feelings, nothing more."