Lotus believes strong car will make Raikkonen stay on in 2014
|By Jonathan Noble||Tuesday, May 7th 2013, 10:13 GMT|
Kimi Raikkonen will commit himself to a fresh contract at Lotus as long as the outfit continues to build on its strong start to the campaign, reckons team owner Gerard Lopez.
The Finn is a free agent at the end of the year, and his strong comeback to F1 has already seen him emerge as one of the key players in the 2014 driver market.
But despite speculation already linking him with other teams - including Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari – Lopez says he is 'convinced' that Raikkonen will remain where he is providing Lotus maintains it competitive form.
"Kimi is a fantastic guy," Lopez said in an exclusive interview with AUTOSPORT. "The thing about Kimi is that he is very thankful we brought him back to where he is.
"And we are very thankful that he has brought the team to where it is now. So it fits nicely.
"To be honest with you, I am convinced, and I don't say this lightly, that if Kimi gets what he wants from us in terms of performance and so on, we will see Kimi moving forward with us.
"He knows that; and he says that. He is not going to get what he gets with us here anywhere else. It doesn't matter if the team has a blue car, a red car or a silver car.
"But this is also racing. So we have to make sure that he has a good competitive car. He has got one. As long as we can give that he will be with us."
Raikkonen has won two races with Lotus since returning at the start of 2012, and is currently 10 points off leader Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' championship.
Lopez said he never had any doubts that Raikkonen would be able to produce such form after being lured back from rallying, even though there were many people sceptical about the choice because of the Finn's relaxed public image.
"We must have had 11 choices [for 2012] – and I can tell you from the outside it was by far not the most obvious one. But to us, it was," he said.
"Honestly there is a lot of pride in this team that we made that choice because we were 100 per cent convinced. It is one of those things where you look at people and say, 'I told you so'.
"We were absolutely convinced that he had what he takes. I dealt with him, talked to him and knew what I was going to get myself in to.
"I knew I wasn't getting someone who was going to shoot a commercial every week or whatever. That is not what we want. But a dedicated racer? That was a given."