Few drivers have caused the kind of speculation that Kimi Raikkonen has in the past few years alone. Will he take a Ferrari payoff and make way for Fernando Alonso? Will he find another ride in Formula One? Will he make it in the World Rally Championship? Will he make a real go of it in NASCAR? Will he ever come back to F1? And if so, with which team? Well, the speculation can now stop – or at least change focus – because the 2007 World Champion has officially returned to Formula One
Lotus Renault Gp
We expected Kimi Raikkonen to return to Formula 1, but we didn't expect it to be with Lotus. The 2007 world champion, as you may recall, left Ferrari and all of F1 at the end of 2009, competing in the meantime in the World Rally Championship and in NASCAR. Rumors of his potential return to F1 have been circulating ever since, and have now been confirmed by way of a two-year contract with Lotus Renault GP starting next season.
The sidelining of Robert Kubica left big shoes to fill at the Lotus Renault GP team. After the Polish driver crashed out in a pre-season rally, the team was left scrambling to find a replacement. But rather than dip into its own considerable reserve of back-up drivers, the higher-ups opted to bring in Nick Heidfeld to fill Kubica's seat.
Filling the proverbial shoes of Robert Kubica is no easy task. The grand prix winner – one of only 102 in history – is the first Polish driver to make it in Formula One, and he is rated as one of the best in the business. Fill his space, though, is exactly what Renault has had to do after Kubica's unfortunate crash in an Italian rally left him severely – if not critically – injured. But if anyone's up to the task, it's Nick Heidfeld.
Formula One teams take a huge risk when they let one of their star drivers contest other forms of motorsport during the offseason. Never mind questions of focus: crashes happen all the time in every motorsport discipline, and one false step can have disastrous consequences for both driver and team.
Former F1 and Indy champion Jacques Villeneuve is playing down reports that he was offered a ride with the new Lotus Renault GP team for next season. The French Canadian driver recently threw in the towel on any potential return to grand prix racing after repeated attempts to get back on the grid, determined to break into NASCAR instead and getting his fix racing Skodas on ice in the interim.
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