Lotus Gets Kimi’s Back Up


Yes, I know it's a really poor pun. But it does sort of work if we put the last 10 days of shenanigans between Lotus and Kimi Raikkonen in context.
Besides, I was originally thinking of going with "Lotus: The Team That Broke The Icemans' Back", so be grateful.

First Kimi says that he hasn't been paid by Lotus. Team Lotus say that everything has been worked out, and Kimi is good to go for Twilight: The Grand Prix.

Then he arrives very late for the practice sessions before the Abu Dhabi GP at Yas Marina. So late in fact, that a number of pundits were openly wondering if he would appear at all. He did. Eventually.

Kimi Raikkonen in happier times at Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen in happier times at Lotus F1

Practice sessions and Qualifying get done without obvious issues. Kimi prepares to start his 3rd last race from P5 on the grid.

It's only after the quali session that FIA Scrutineers announce that the floor of Kimi's short wheelbase Lotus has been found to be outside of acceptable limits. The car "failed floor deflection testing". Failed the test so badly, his times are excluded from Qualifying, and he is made to start from the back of the grid.

Race day dawns (or, as is the case in Abu Dhabi, 'race day dusks').

Stoic as ever, the Man of Ice elects to start from the back of the main grid, and not from the pit lane exit. It's a decision that comes back to bite him just 2 corners into the race.

Going through the 1st corner, the Lotus is tagged ever so slightly by a Caterham. It's enough to terminally wound the fragile Lotus. Kimi rolls the car to a gentle stop on the outside of the circuit having complete only a few hundred meters of the race.

15 minutes later, we get to see Kimi Raikkonen for the last time this season. (Except we don't know it'll be the last time just yet.)

The image of a former World Champion getting into the passenger seat of a SUV and driving away from the circuit, before a third of the Grand Prix is done, is not pleasant. The relationship between team and driver should never have been allowed to deteriorate to that low a point.

It is what it is though. Personally I don't blame him at all.

Three days later and Raikkonen pops over to his 2014 employers' office for a seat fitting. Nothing untoward in that. And the Scuderia Ferrari techs get the job done without incident.

Things seem to settle down for a while, and the trek over to the Americas for the last 2 races of the season looks like it is on track.

In fact, an interview appearing on Friday suggests that not only is Kimi ready to go racing again, but also that he is really keen on racing in the USA again. He tells Motorsport.com that the "US made me want to come back to F1".

Two days later and the F1 world wakes up to Sunday morning coffee, croissants, and the news from Finnish media that Kimi will not race in the US or Brazil at all. His Lotus career is effectively done.

He has opted to undergo back surgery to treat an ailment he has been carrying for a while now. I guess he feels that he owes it to his new employers at Ferrari to be fighting fit come 2014 testing early in the new year.

A few hours later, and the Lotus F1 Team issue a short statement to the media, confirming the details:

Lotus F1 Team can confirm that Kimi Räikkönen will miss the final two races of the 2013 Formula 1 season to undergo, and recover from, back surgery.

The team will make an announcement about the replacement driver for the United States and Brazilian Grands Prix in due course.

Lotus F1 Team

And that's all she wrote.

The inevitable "who will take his seat in the USA" rumours were quick to surface. An initial suggestion that Nico Hulkenberg, Räikkönen's probable replacement for 2014, could be drafted in early from the Sauber Team made the rounds. Both team and driver laughed the suggestion off.

"Not likely," Hulkenberg's manager Werner Heinz told Germany's Bild newspaper. "No one has talked with us about that."

The reality is that the Lotus Team have not one, but two, qualified drivers on their payroll books for just this reason. Davide Valsecchi is the team's Third Driver. Jérôme D’Ambrosio is the Lotus Reserve Driver. To my mind it makes sense to give one of them the opportunity to end off the season for the team.

Hopefully Romain Grosjean and whichever stand-in they opt for can help bring a sensible end to what has been a pretty tumultuous second half of 2013 for the Lotus F1 Team.

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