Niki Lauda says Kimi Raikkonen needs an exceptional car to return to his very best in F1

Kimi Raikkonen will only return to his very best in Formula 1 this year if Lotus is able to provide him with an exceptional car

Niki Lauda says Kimi Raikkonen needs an exceptional car to return to his very best in F1

That is the view of former world champion Niki Lauda, who welcomes the return of the 2007 title winner to F1 but thinks his potential will be very dependent on what machinery he is driving.

"It's excellent news that he will be back," Lauda told AUTOSPORT. "He is an exceptional personality and will create huge interest and excitement with media and fans.

"It is a good move for Renault or Lotus as the team is called now. It depends on how good the car will be, because Kimi will only shine in an excellent car."

Lauda believes that Sebastian Vettel's rivals are also going to face a mammoth task if they want to overhaul the double champion - and he has not ruled out the German dominating the forthcoming season again.

"Sebastian has gained a lot of confidence last year, and doesn't make mistakes," he said. "He will be the benchmark again. Who ever wants to beat him, must rely on a perfect car."

Speaking about his predictions for the 2012 season, Lauda added: "Right now nobody knows how the new cars will perform. However, from a logical point of view, Red Bull should be out in front again because they only have to modify the exhaust and the diffuser.

"The loss in downforce will be regained by aerodynamic improvements. The question is: who will find the smartest solutions? Who had a very good car in 2011 has the advantage now too.

"Red Bull had an excellent car last year and they only need to do further developments whereas, say, Mercedes have to build a proper new car. That includes the risk of going in the wrong direction, though they added some well-known technicians. The same for Ferrari.

"It is easier to improve from a solid basis than to start from scratch. Having said that, we all have to wait for the first tests."

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