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NEW DELHI: Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen looked forward to mounting a stronger title challenge next year after Lotus announced the 2007 Formula One champion, currently third overall, had signed a new deal with the team.
“We have proven as a team that we can build and develop a strong and reliable car. This year has been a good platform to put down strong foundations for what will hopefully be an even better season next time around,” he said in a team Q&A session released yesterday.
“We know what we need to do to improve in some important areas...all in all I’m looking forward to carrying on working with the team to achieve more good things in 2013.”
Lotus made the announcement that he was staying next season with a teasing video posted on YouTube, with the link posted to it from their official Twitter feed.
Raikkonen, who won his title with Ferrari, made his Formula One comeback this season after ending a switch to the world rally championship.
There had been doubts about his motivation but the Finn has been the most consistent driver on the grid, with 14 successive scoring finishes and every racing lap completed.
He has been on the podium six times in 2012.
With three races to go, the 33-year-old is 67 points off the lead and still chasing the first win of his comeback.
But compared to seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, who has had one third place with Mercedes in the three years since he started his comeback and is retiring again next month at the age of 43, Raikkonen has excelled.
“This season has shown me that I still love racing as much as I ever did,” he said. “Obviously, I would have not come back to the sport if I did not feel like this. Driving a Formula One car still gives me the same inspiration and I feel the same passion for it.
“I have been very happy with the team; how they work, how they approach the races and how they invest in developing the car,” he added.
Team principal Eric Boullier told reporters after Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix that neither Raikkonen nor French team mate Romain Grosjean were likely to win any of the season’s final three races.
“Realistically I would be kidding people if I said we would win a race this year,” he said.
“Yes I can be frustrated at not getting this missing, or elusive, win but we had a good start to the season with a new package and two new drivers.
“If you put us in the same position next year then it will be a different story.”
Raikkonen was seventh in India, Grosjean ninth.
Boullier said an announcement on the full driver line-up could be expected soon.
Grosjean, despite several first corner crashes of the kind that got him suspended for the Italian Grand Prix in September, is almost certain to be kept on as well but Raikkonen is established as a key figure.
“Kimi has made an exceptional comeback to Formula One,” Boullier said yesterday. “From the first time he sat in the car this year it was clear he had lost none of his pace or technical feedback and we have been rewarded by a focused and motivated driver all season.” REUTERS