Un’ultima chance di restare in Lotus?–26/08/2013
Lopez tips Raikkonen to agree to new Lotus deal
Team owner Gerard Lopez is hopeful Kimi Raikkonen will soon sign a new deal to stay at Lotus in 2014.
As a weekend of fever-pitch speculation nears an end, the Finnish driver’s manager Steve Robertson has now clearly denied rumours Raikkonen has inked a Ferrari contract.
"It’s a load of rubbish," he told the broadcaster MTV3.
"We are in the same place as we were a month ago in Hungary — we do not have an agreement," Robertson insisted.
MTV3 claims Raikkonen staying at Lotus next year is backed by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who wants as many top drivers as possible spread across all the top teams.
So if Raikkonen stays put, Ecclestone thinks McLaren with Jenson Button, Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari with Fernando Alonso and Red Bull with Sebastian Vettel is an ideal situation for the sport.
Raikkonen hinted on Friday that one pertinent issue is the fact Lotus has often been late to pay wages.
But according to another rumour in Belgium, also crucial to Raikkonen staying next year could be a deal that brings engine supplier Renault – marginalised at Red Bull due to the Infiniti deal – closer to Lotus.
That would tie into speculation Raikkonen has demanded certain ‘guarantees’ about Lotus’ competitiveness in 2014.
"We do not need to give any guarantees," Lopez insists. "We are very competitive.
"Rather, the question is about next season. We are very close to reaching an agreement with Renault.
"I believe that we have very good chances. We’ve done a good job to give Kimi what he wants."
And, ultimately, he thinks that when the time is right, sitting down with a new contract and Raikkonen will be a straightforward matter.
"We already talk a lot," said Lopez. "As long as we are able to give him what he wants and we can react calmly, I believe we can reach an agreement quickly."
Lotus remains convinced Kimi Raikkonen will stay on for F1 2014
Lotus still remains convinced that Kimi Raikkonen will stay at the team next year, despite the speculation linking him with both Red Bull and Ferrari.
Raikkonen had held talks with Red Bull, but the team looks almost certain to hand its second seat to its junior driver Daniel Ricciardo.
Ferrari is also currently considering whether or not to replace Felipe Massa, and Raikkonen is understood to be on a shortlist of candidates.
Lotus, however, remains Raikkonen’s preferred option – and his manager said last week that if the Enstone-based team can give the former champion the assurances he wants then he will commit to a fresh deal.
Eric Boullier, the Lotus team boss, admitted he was still optimistic that Raikkonen will stay on board, even though a major financial deal with investment partner Infinity Racing is taking longer to finalise than originally anticipated.
When asked if he was still confident Raikkonen would be at Lotus in 2014, Boullier said: "Yes I am. He loves this team, he likes to be here and he likes the environment.
"But you need to be rational: we have to sort out the strength of the team financially and there is a technical challenge we face for next year.
"It is still up in the air, but as soon as we know we can deliver what he wants then we will obviously sit down."
NO CONCERNS ABOUT INFINITY DEAL
Although progress on concluding the Infinity deal has been slow, Boullier thinks that such complications are to be expected when a team like Lotus aims to put in place such big partnerships.
"There was an effort in this team before to compete at the highest level, and you need to establish another strategy to reach that step," he said.
"It is like playing in the Premier League and fighting for some wins against going for a top three position. If you want to consistently be like Manchester United then you need another level of investment and commitment.
"This is what we are working for, and this is why we are working on getting stronger.
"We have solved most of the issues now, but we expect for Monza to get the deal completely done."