K imi Raikkonen was quietly happy. As is his way. He knows he's in a good racing car. 'My feeling has rarely deceived me.' Now it turns out to be a stroke of luck that he switched from Williams to Lotus at the last minute. Teammate Romain Grosjean grinned from ear to ear. He set the fastest time in Jerez with one of the new cars. Two years ago his career was considered a failure. Now it gets new momentum.
It is not often that a team swaps both drivers. There is always a certain risk involved because the drivers first have to get used to the engineers and vice versa. And because the car was built for other pilots with different driving impressions. Team owner Gérard Lopez has still bet on a fresh start.
Electric shock for Vitaly Petrov
The Luxembourger explains why he is Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna in the desert sent, and why Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean are now driving for the colors of Lotus. 'Vitaly Petrov had reached a mental limit,' analyzes Lopez. 'The speed might be more important, but not the attitude. We had the feeling with him that he thinks: If I give my sponsorship money to the team, I'll be there for the next five years. But that's not how Formula 1 works. You have to work out everything for yourself. That's why Vitaly needed an electric shock. Either he'll miss a year or he'll try another team. That will help him. '
Romain Grosjean has already had this electric shock themselves. After his seven races for Renault in 2009, the Geneva-based Frenchman disappeared into oblivion, first driving GT1 races, then his fourth GP2 season. 'Romain was in a similar situation as Petrov in 2009. He believed everything would go by itself. We watched him closely afterwards,' said Lopez. 'Then we thought he deserved a second chance.'
The managers of the Genii driver pool put the former Renault darling in a GP2 team. He was no stranger there. He had been in the junior class for three years, but never made it to the title. 'We brought him to DAMS. Maybe not the top team on the scene, but very solid. Romain should have to fight for his chance. He knew that we would ask him to win the league title if he was still upwants to raise hopes for Formula 1. '
Grosjean carried out the order. After a bumpy start to the season, he won the championship trophy at the end. Lopez keeps the pressure high. The GP2 title is not all-round insurance. 'It's up to him and his performance how long he'll drive with us.'
Bruno Senna too self-confident
In principle, Bruno Senna also failed because of Petrov's syndrome, the Brazilian was too sure that he would keep his place in the team. He brought sponsors with him, he has a big name. But Lopez doubted whether he had the right bite. 'When he finished 14th on the grid at the Indian Grand Prix drove, he was in a good mood. I thought it couldn't be. With 14th place in training, you have to be annoyed and question what went wrong. '
There was no doubt about Kimi Raikkonen's qualities. Rather, it was more about whether the Finn was willing again, his great love rallying renounce to concentrate on Formula 1. That was exactly what brought the negotiations to an unsatisfactory end in autumn 2010. 'We had the feeling that he wasn't one hundred percent ready to let go of rallying back then. If he had come under the circumstances, it would only have been because of the money, 'says Lopez.
Lopez pulls through Raikkonen deal single-handedly
Now the circumstances are different.' I have Kimi called directly. Without management. Without anyone from the team knowing anything. And I quickly felt that it was hot again, that Formula 1 is now in the foreground. 'The engineers, according to Lopez, rave about their new superstar after the first two working days.' Kimi makes very clear statements about the car. After 14 laps he found something wrong with the steering and was able to tell exactly what it was. '