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Lotus play down rumours of Raikkonen rift 01 Nov 2013

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1 on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Race Day, Sunday, 27 October 2013 Gerard Lopez, chairman of the Lotus team Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Race Day, Sunday, 27 October 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Preparations, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Thursday, 31 October 2013

Lotus F1 Team Chairman Gerard Lopez has played down the significance of Kimi Raikkonen’s tense radio exchange with trackside operations director Alan Permane during the latter stages of last weekend’s race in India.

In New Delhi Permane issued a strongly-worded message to the 34-year-old Finn not to hold up team mate Romain Grosjean, after the pair almost made contact battling for third position. But despite speculation of a possible falling out - fuelled by Raikkonen’s absence from Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday - Lopez insists the incident in India was, in the scheme of things, minor.

“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,” he said in an interview for the team’s website.

“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.”

Raikkonen will race for Lotus just three more times before leaving for Ferrari at the end of the season, a move that Lopez admitted saddens him.

“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. For me this brought sadness, as it’s like a prodigal son leaving us.

“The fact is he will be missed,” Lopez added, “and I really think that this is one of those partnerships in Formula One that is - and will be remembered as being - very, very special.”

Despite his pending departure, Lopez pointed to several areas in which Raikkonen has been extremely beneficial to the team, not least in the rapid development of Romain Grosjean.

“(Kimi) helped Romain to develop as a driver in a way he perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise,” he explained. “Had Romain been next to a more junior driver, or a less capable driver, we probably would still not know how good Romain is.

“For Romain to be delivering the results he is doing so now, it’s really very much because he is driving next to probably one of the best Formula One drivers ever. Kimi has been a tremendous help in the development of Romain.”

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