Lotus deny Kimi Raikkonen deal is marketing ploy

 

Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar has dismissed claims the signing of Kimi Raikkonen was nothing more than a stunt to improve the team's PR.

Lotus have taken a risk in luring 2007 world champion Raikkonen back to Formula One following a two-year absence during which he competed in the World Rally Championship.

It has come at significant expense given Raikkonen's financial demands, coupled with the fact they have also opted to dispense with the services of Vitaly Petrov, who brought in considerable sponsorship money from Russia.

Instead, Lotus believe Raikkonen is the man to drive them towards their target of achieving victories next year.

"This is a big, big change in strategy we have agreed together," said Bahar of Group Lotus' partnership with team owners Genii Capital.

"It's not about a marketing exercise, as I read in the press, or a business platform for the shareholders.

"It's about the Formula One team, and that is about performance, and that is when you are on the podium.

"If we don't invest properly in people, in the team, then you get nowhere, so we have to make this commitment, which includes having non-pay drivers.

"The decision taken with Vitaly shows we have one clear goal, and that is moving upwards. If we get the car right then the sky is the limit for us.

"You saw that at the beginning of this year, although it turned it was not the right strategy with the car.

"But it is possible to win races, especially in the first three or four, if you have the car right and are up there at the beginning."

Bahar has admitted Raikkonen had been on the team's radar for a long period, with circumstances finally dictating now was the right time to pursue their interest in the Finn, who was also being courted by Williams.

"He was probably on the list of many other teams as well, but he was also on our list 12 months ago," said Bahar, who recently signed a new four-year deal to continue leading Group Lotus.

"It was about asking whether it was the right moment to get him, could we afford him, and can we replace with sponsors? It's always the same discussions the team have.

"This time, once it was decided we needed an experienced driver and we needed to move up more, we chose not to get the highest-bidding driver in our cockpit, and that's a brave decision."

Bahar, though, is convinced Raikkonen will not let anybody down, despite his clear disaffection with the sport in his final year with Ferrari in 2009.

"Kimi is a very good guy, a very cool guy. We respect him a lot, and that is the reason he is with us," said Bahar.

"He has matured a lot. He is 32 now, so he is a grown-up man. He knows his return to Formula One will not be easy.

"But he is not the kid any more he was in Sauber or McLaren. It's a different time and he has to deliver. I think he realises that."

PA

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