|Grosjean will be one of two new French drivers for the 2012 Formula One season [GALLO/GETTY]|
French driver Romain Grosjean will return to the Formula One starting grid next season as Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus team mate, the former Renault Formula One team announced on Friday.
The news completed the team’s race line-up and means both Lotus drivers will be making comebacks, with Grosjean dropped by Renault at the end of 2009 after seven grands prix as a replacement.
Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 world champion for Ferrari, has been competing in the world rally championship for the past two seasons.
The announcement left Russian Vitaly Petrov, who competed for the team this year along with Brazilian Bruno Senna, looking for a seat with only a few options available.
“We were impressed when he drove for us in the first practice sessions in Abu Dhabi and Brazil. We are confident that drafting him in to one of our drivers’ seats will help us in our rebuilding process”
Renault boss Eric Boullier
“I am thrilled to be one of the team’s race drivers in 2012,” said Grosjean, who was born in Geneva but now lives in Paris, in a statement.
“There’s a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next year’s car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity.”
His contract was announced at the same time as a renewal of the team’s sponsorship with French oil giant Total, who have backed Grosjean for more than six years.
Petrov, who had raced for the team for the past two years as Russia’s first F1 driver, had a contract for 2012 but his manager had made clear in recent days that it was not a watertight agreement.
Renault boss Eric Boullier thanked Petrov and Senna for their contributions and wished them well while focusing on
“Romain has shown a lot of maturity in the past 12 months both through his GP2 Series victory and his development as third driver with us,” he said.
“We were impressed when he drove for us in the first practice sessions in Abu Dhabi and Brazil. We are confident that drafting him in to one of our drivers’ seats will help us in our rebuilding process.”
Formula One, French two
Grosjean raced for Renault in 2009 as a mid-season replacement for Brazilian Nelson Piquet junior and won the GP2
support series this year.
His arrival means France, a country whose language permeates the sport, will have at least two drivers racing in Formula One next year after a barren period. Charles Pic has signed for Marussia, formerly Virgin Racing.
“Announcing Romain as our race driver alongside Kimi is great news and will help us achieve our aims of getting back to the very top,” said Gerard Lopez, chairman of the team’s owners Genii Capital.
Grosjean said he was a much more complete driver now.
“I feel that my successful season in GP2 Series has helped me mature a lot,” he said.
|Grosjean returns to the frontline to face new, and old, rivals [GALLO/GETTY]|
“Returning to Enstone (the team headquarters) as a race driver feels like coming home. I will not disappoint.”
There was no mention in the statement of Robert Kubica, the Pole who is now out of contract with the team but would have been their lead driver this year had he not suffered life-threatening injuries in a rally crash.
Kubica missed all of this season and the team have said he will not be ready for the start of the next campaign.
Grosjean’s appointment leaves Williams as the main focus of the driver market.
The former champions have confirmed Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado as one race driver but Brazilian Rubens Barrichello faces a strong challenge for the other place with Germany’s Adrian Sutil tipped to take it.
Force India have not yet named their lineup but are expected to go with Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg and Britain’s Paul di Resta. HRT have a vacancy while Toro Rosso have a choice of four Red Bull-backed drivers, including Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.
One of those Red Bull drivers, Australian Daniel Ricciardo, is in the frame to replace Italian Jarno Trulli at Caterham,
formerly Team Lotus.