Raikkonen to miss final two races of season

Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen is set to miss the final two races of the season after electing to undergo back surgery, his manager has confirmed to a Finnish newspaper.

Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Lotus

Steve Robertson told Turun Sanomat that Raikkonen would need to skip the closing races of 2013 in the United States and Brazil after going under the knife in Salzburg next week.

The Lotus team were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Press Association Sport for confirmation on Sunday.

Raikkonen has been taking painkillers to control his long-standing back problem, which flared up earlier this year and almost forced him to miss the Singapore Grand Prix.

"The experts recommend surgery," Robertson told Turun Sanomat. "That will take place on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria.

"The most important thing right now is to sort out the back problem. Then Kimi can go into next season in the best of shape."

The news is the latest twist in Raikkonen's increasingly strained relationship with Lotus, who he will leave at the end of the season to re-join Ferrari, with whom the 34-year-old won the 2007 world championship.

Raikkonen was involved in an expletive-laden radio exchange with the Lotus pit wall during the recent Indian Grand Prix after failing to move aside for  team-mate Romain Grosjean, and was then late arriving to last weekend's race in Abu Dhabi amid an ongoing pay dispute with his employers.

The Finn, who claims he has not been paid by Lotus all year, eventually raced in Abu Dhabi after an understanding was apparently reached with the team.
With the penultimate race of the season in Austin just a week away, Lotus will have to move fast to line up a replacement driver.

Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg and Williams' Pastor Maldonado head the list of drivers vying to replace Raikkonen in 2014, but it seems unlikely either could be released from their current deals at such short notice, leaving Lotus reserve driver Davide Valsecchi as the man in pole position to step in.

Raikkonen's official website posted a statement on Sunday evening in which the driver's management team expressed sadness at the situation.

"Kimi Raikkonen will undergo back surgery this coming week, the consequent four weeks' recovery time forcing him to miss the forthcoming United States and Brazilian Grands Prix," the statement read.

"Kimi suffered from issues with his back earlier this year at the Singapore Grand Prix and a reoccurrence of this problem has forced him to have surgery now to help prevent ongoing problems in the future, and to ensure he is at full fitness for the 2014 season.

"Kimi and his management are saddened that Kimi will not be able to complete the 2013 season with Lotus F1 Team where he was fighting for third position in the drivers' championship. They would also like to thank all fans for the thousands of kind messages received since the news has emerged."

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