FORMER world champion Kimi Raikkonen admits his decision to return to Formula One was driven by a longing to get back in the cockpit that he could no longer ignore.
Raikkonen ended months of speculation yesterday by announcing he has signed a two-year contract with Lotus Renault, starting next season.
The 32-year-old Finn won the drivers’ championship with Ferrari in 2007 but was discarded by the Italians just two years later in favour of new signing Fernando Alonso.
After rejecting other offers to stay in F1, Raikkonen – known as the Iceman – turned his hand to rallying with mixed results, but has now given in to the urge to return to the track.
“I’m delighted to be coming back to Formula One after a two-year break, and I’m grateful to Lotus Renault GP for offering me this opportunity,” he said. “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.”
Raikkonen also held talks with Williams before plumping for Renault, who will adopt the Lotus name next year. “It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault GP as I have been impressed by the team’s ambition,” he added. “I’m looking forward to pushing the team to the very front of the grid.”
DID YOU KNOW? | KIMI RAIKKONEN
• As well as F1 and rallying, Kimi has turned his hand to NASCAR, snowmobile racing (winning a 24 km event in 2007) and powerboating – while dressed as a gorilla (yes, really).
• His last contract in F1, with Ferrari, earned him a salary of $51m (between £26m and 0, depending on exchange rates at the time) and saw him ranked the second highest-paid sportsman in the world in 2009, after Tiger Woods.
• He has his nickname, Iceman (for his ultra-cool temperament as well as his Scandinavian roots), tattooed on his left arm.