De Villota close to 2012 Renault/Lotus deal

Female Spanish driver Maria de Villota has revealed she is close to signing a contract to become third driver for the Renault/Lotus team in 2012.

At an event on Wednesday, the 31-year-old was quoted as saying she expected to put pen to paper “later this year or early next year”. She said the role is to be the “Friday or the replacement driver” at grands prix, acknowledging that her work will be “focused towards 2013”, when she hopes to “be on the grid”.

“We have all the pieces, all that remains is to fit them together during a day for some simple negotiating points,” de Villota is quoted by Europa Press. “There are many women who can drive well and so it is important to try to open the way for others to see that it is not something so unusual.”

De Villota, whose father Emilio de Villota raced in F1 in the 70s and 80s, was a team guest at Interlagos last weekend.


Five teams yet to confirm 2012 drivers

Five F1 teams are yet to complete their driver lineups for the 2012 season, the FIA confirmed this week. The provisional entry list for next season shows vacancies at Renault/Lotus, Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams.

And confirmation of the drivers is not the only element missing at HRT, with the presently Cosworth-powered Spanish team also yet to announce its engine supplier.

However, contrary to recent speculation, there appears no doubt about Caterham’s 2012 lineup, with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli both listed as confirmed for the start of the new season.

Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, has been assigned the number 9 for his return to Formula One with Lotus.


Raikkonen: The biggest difference for me will be the tyres

Kimi Raikkonen’s manager insists he is delighted the 2007 world champion has decided to return to the world of F1.

“He is back where he should be,” said Steve Robertson, referring to the 32-year-old Finn’s decision to leave world rallying and NASCAR and sign for two-years with Renault/Lotus. “My personal opinion is that when he left F1 after 2009 he was too young and too good to be doing so.

“He still has a lot to give to the sport, and when he asked us to explore the possibilities, he was constantly pushing us forward.”

The bulk of Robertson’s negotiations were with Williams, he revealed.

“Everyone seems to know about our discussions with Williams,” he told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat. “They continued for many weeks but on some of the things we could not agree. Then shortly before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix we started talking with Eric Boullier. Both sides wanted to come to an agreement quickly.”

Indeed, Raikkonen told the same newspaper that his first ever phone conversation with Boullier was last Monday.

“Kimi wanted to come back and so he had to act quickly, because there are few places and a lot of drivers on the market,” Robertson explained.

He said the rear wing innovation ‘DRS’, introduced this year, will not be a problem for Raikkonen to adjust to.

“The (Pirelli) tyres are a question mark, but normally Kimi needs no more than a few laps to adjust to something very quickly.”

The next step for the former Ferrari and McLaren winner is a visit this week to Enstone, and then some testing.

“I can drive this year’s car as long as it is on GP2 tyres,” said Raikkonen. “Just a familiarisation. I don’t know the schedule yet but when the new car comes I will test it.”

Some predict that Raikkonen will struggle to re-adapt to F1 after two years away, but the Finn insisted: “It probably will not be so difficult. I drove F1 cars for a long time, and the last time was with the KERS and with a lot of buttons on the steering wheel.

“The biggest difference is the tyres as it takes some time to learn how to use them the best way. But it was more difficult when I changed from the Michelin to the Bridgestone tyres. Now, I haven’t driven on F1 tyres for two years so I did not get used to something else. In this way it will certainly be easier.

“I have talked to my friend Pedro de la Rosa and from what he told me, they (the tyres) feel pretty good, with good grip from the outset, which for me is important.”