Lotus in talks over new driver to replace Kimi Raikkonen

Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta among contenders

Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has confirmed he is already in talks with a number of drivers as he seeks a replacement for Kimi Raikkonen.

Despite attempts to convince Raikkonen that remaining at Enstone was his best move, the 33-year-old Finn is to return to Ferrari next season on a two-year deal.

With the 2014 driver line-ups now confirmed at Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, Boullier sees Lotus as the next team on the list any driver would want to join.

Felipe Massa, ousted from Ferrari in favour of Raikkonen, is already a contender, along with Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta at Force India.

Boullier said: "We are currently in discussion with a few people and will make a decision shortly.

"We are in the privileged position of being the most desirable team on the grid with a seat available.

"So we are therefore in no rush to announce anyone without establishing what will be the best for our team and the future."

Boullier said, however, that losing Raikkonen had come as "a disappointment to all of us".

Following a two-year sabbatical in rallying in 2010 and 2011 after leaving Ferrari at the end of 2009, Raikkonen returned to F1 with Lotus at the start of last season.

The 2007 world champion helped propel Lotus back on to the top step of the podium, initially in Abu Dhabi last season and Australia at the start of this campaign.

Both those victories played a part in Raikkonen's new Formula One record run of 27 consecutive races in the points.

Reflecting on Raikkonen's time with the team, Boullier added: "We're sure you will agree Kimi has been nothing but brilliant since he joined us.

"In the same breath, Enstone has again proven its pedigree, providing him with two great cars and making his return to Formula One a success. It's been a win-win situation right from the beginning."

Insisting there was no bitterness over Raikkonen's decision, Boullier added: "Two years ago, when we decided to sign him, quite a few people thought we were crazy. And what happened in the end?

"We've been working with an amazing racer, who scored points for the team 27 times in a row, won two races, put motivation at a very high level at Enstone, and got on very well with his team-mate.

"Now, it's time to think about the future. You know, we remain a medium-sized team and there are some areas in which we're not in a position to fight against the other top teams just yet.

"But we've had (Michael) Schumacher, (Fernando) Alonso, Raikkonen. New champions will join the list here soon I'm sure."

PA

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