Lotus team principal Eric Boullier believes he can keep Kimi Raikkonen from leaving the outfit to join Red Bull for 2014.
But he admitted the 2007 world champion had been paid late by the team earlier in the year. “It was paid late, yes,” Boullier told the BBC. “But it has been paid. We have to if we want to keep him.”
Boullier said Raikkonen was keen for assurances about how competitive the team will be in future. “Two years in a row we have closed the gap with Red Bull,” he said. “He wants to know if we will keep going like that.”
Raikkonen returned from a two-year F1 absence to join Lotus last year. He won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the team and began the new season with a victory in Melbourne. He hasn’t won since but four second places have helped him to third in the drivers’ championship, 41 points behind Sebastian Vettel and seven behind Fernando Alonso.
His contract with the team expires this year and a vacancy has opened up alongside Vettel at Red Bull following Mark Webber’s decision to joined Porsche in the World Endurance Championship.
Fellow world champions Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are locked into long-term contracts with their current teams, leaving Raikkonen among the favorites to join Red Bull, along with development drivers and Toro Rosso racers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.