Boullier: Raikkonen was paid late but we can keep him

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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.

SMP Racing unveils BR1 LMP1 car in Bahrain ahead of WEC entry

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SMP Racing has publicly unveiled its new BR1 LMP1 car that will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.

SMP Racing opted to pull out of racing full-time in the WEC for 2017 in order to focus on its preparations for an LMP1 entry the following year, with the decision being taken long in advance of Porsche’s exit announcement.

Officials from the Russian-backed SMP Racing, as well as drivers including recent IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin (sporting a broken arm in a sling), Vitaly Petrov and Sergey Sirotkin were all on hand to unveil the car on Friday in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock ahead of this weekend’s WEC finale.

The BR Engineering BR1 features a Dallara chassis and an AER engine, and has completed over 2,000 km in private testing, with further running set to be completed in the coming weeks.

SMP Racing plans to field two cars in the WEC’s LMP1 class next year, and is keen to get as many Russian drivers as possible in the seats from its wide pool of talent.

Even with Porsche’s departure from LMP1, the class is set to feature a bigger field thanks to the increased number of privateers moving up, with Toyota set to remain the sole manufacturer in the class.