Lopez: Kimi has been misunderstood

Lotus chairman Gerard Lopez praised Kimi Raikkonen for his effect on the team and said the team were unable to offer a package to keep the "misunderstood" Finn.

Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Lotus

Raikkonen, 34, will rejoin Ferrari from 2014 onwards as he looks to find a car capable of delivering him a second world championship after he collected his first with the famous Italian manufacturer in 2007.

Since the announcement was made that Raikkonen would be departing Lotus there have seemed to be tensions between driver and team that did not exist previously.

They culminated last weekend in the Indian Grand Prix when Raikkonen almost came together with team-mate Romain Grosjean as the latter worked his way up the field after starting 17th.

Grosjean was challenging the Finn for third place towards the end of the race when he was forced wide by Raikkonen, who was struggling on badly-worn tyres.

With the Ferrari of Felipe Massa closing in, the incident led to an angry exchange over the team radio, with an engineer telling Raikkonen to ''get out of the ******* way''.

After the Finn delivered a colourful retort of his own Grosjean was finally able to get past on his way to claiming the bottom step on the podium, while Raikkonen slipped back to an eventual seventh place at the chequered flag.

Team principal Eric Boullier said he would talk to both drivers when they landed in Abu Dhabi, but Raikkonen further seemed to distance himself from the team when he failed to arrive on Thursday.

Lopez moved to defend Raikkonen, who returned to Formula One with Lotus after a three-year absence, and highlighted the heated words in India as a passion from everyone involved to be successful.

"From my perspective, Kimi is often misunderstood," Lopez told lotusf1team.com

"He's actually a very talkative, very friendly guy. One of the unfortunate things about being in the limelight is that people are always trying to make it look like there are huge fights going on.

"Of course, recently a lot was made about the comments between Alan Permane and Kimi during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange taking a matter of seconds in the course of a two-year relationship.

"It certainly wasn't the most beneficial few seconds, but you have to step back and accept that everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen."

Lotus are now searching for a replacement for Raikkonen, with Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado of Williams the two drivers heavily linked with the vacant seat.

But for Lopez losing the uncompromising Finn and the team's "prodigal son" will leave him with a heavy heart after the former McLaren man helped sculpt the front-running team.

"For a long time we had the opportunity to keep him in our hands, but we weren't able to operate to the timeframe - or make the offer - that Ferrari were able to do," he conceded.

"For me this brought sadness, as it's like prodigal son leaving us. When we signed him there was a lot of criticism and a lot of disbelief. There were some people who were saying that he still had it in him and that he was one of the best

Formula 1 drivers out there, but at the same time there were many people who were saying that he couldn't do it.

"But we believed in him and he delivered big time. The only reason we're fighting for second in the World Championship is because of all the points that Kimi has scored. We're doing everything we can to ensure Kimi and the team can continue to fight right up to the chequered flag in Brazil."



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