F1: Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen set for return with Lotus Renault
LOTUS Renault GP have confirmed that former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will return to the Formula One grid next season after signing a two-year deal with the team
The Finnish driver, who walked away from Formula One at the end of the 2009 season in order to compete in the World Rally Championship for two years, lifted the F1 world title in 2007 while driving with Ferrari.
Lotus Renault GP looked set to announce another driver after Robert Kubica last week said he was unlikely to return next season as he continues with his recovery from a near fatal rallying accident in February.
Thrilled to be back on the scene, Raikkonen said: "I'm delighted to be coming back to Formula 1 after a two-year break, and I'm grateful to Lotus Renault GP for offering me this opportunity
"My time in the World Rally Championship has been a useful stage in my career as a driver, but I can't deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming.
"It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault GP as I have been impressed by the scope of the team's ambition. Now I'm looking forward to playing an important role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid."
Team owner Gerard Lopez added: "All year long, we kept saying that our team was at the start of a brand new cycle. Backstage we've been working hard to build the foundations of a successful structure and to ensure that we would soon be able to fight at the highest level.
"Kimi's decision to come back to Formula 1 with us is the first step of several announcements which should turn us into an even more serious contender in the future. Of course, we are all looking forward to working with a world champion. On behalf of our staff, I'd like to welcome Kimi to Enstone, a setting that has always been known for its human approach to Formula 1."
Before his two-year break, Raikkonen had 18 wins, 62 podiums and 16 pole positions to his name.
A statement released on the Lotus Renault GP website said the team hoped that the 32-year-old's return would "help the team make a step forward next year" and demonstrate "the team’s determination and new philosophy for the seasons ahead."
It remains unconfirmed who Raikkonen will be driving alongside as Russian driver Vitaly Petrov is contracted until the end of 2012 but is widely expected to be replaced by Romain Grosjean.
At the start of the season, Nick Heidfeld was brought in to drive for Kubica though the German was replaced by Bruno Senna at the end of August.
Raikkonen's arrival at Lotus Renault GP will give hope to Rubens Barrichello that he may yet be awarded his 20th season in the sport as the aforementioned Finn had been linked with Williams before today's announcement.
Few seats remain available for next season with Adrian Sutil's future also hanging in the balance at Force India who are rumoured to be lining up Nico Hulkenberg as Paul di Resta's team mate.