After a tense weekend in Abu Dhabi, a deal to secure Lotus' future looks closer than ever before. With unpaid Kimi Raikkonen's boycott threat looming large, it appears the investment group known as 'Quantum' may finally be ready to inject much-needed cash. "We have tried to be diplomatic," Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson told Turun Sanomat newspaper in Abu Dhabi, "but it's already November. The time for talking is over and now we need action," he insisted.
The situation did not appear to have improved by Sunday's grand prix, however, when Raikkonen crashed on the first lap for the first time since 2006. Conspiracy theories that Raikkonen did it on purpose did the rounds. "We don't have to worry about that (drivers crashing on purpose)," Red Bull's mischievous Helmut Marko said, "because we pay our drivers."
Raikkonen then immediately left the circuit. "I hope Kimi will be driving in Austin," Robertson told Der Spiegel, "but first the conditions have to be right." But then the 'Quantum' chief, Mansoor Ijaz, told reporters that talks with Robertson late on Saturday had in fact eased the tense situation. "I've apologised to Steve, we've apologised to Kimi," he said. Lotus team boss Eric Boullier confirmed only that the controversy with the unpaid Raikkonen had been "settled".
It might also be good news for Nico Hulkenberg, who is Lotus' first choice to replace the Ferrari-bound Ferrari next year. Boullier admitted that a "contract" with Pastor Maldonado is also "ready" -- presumably if the Quantum deal ultimately collapses.
Ijaz confirmed that Quantum and Lotus' first choice is Hulkenberg. "I know Nico is excited about doing this and I think it's a matter of a very short period before all that will be finalised," he said. "We're going to clear off the (team's) debt, and then we're going to bring very high quality sponsors which you'll see very soon. They (Lotus) are going to pay a lot of bills this week, let's put it that way. We've asked them to make sure things get paid as quickly as possible," he added.
Boullier hinted that all will become clear on Tuesday. "Hopefully," the Frenchman smiled. (GMM)