Dany Bahar denies Kimi R�ikk�nen deal is Lotus PR stunt
Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar has dismissed claims the signing of Kimi R�ikk�nen was nothing more than a publicity stunt.
Lotus have taken a risk in luring 2007 world champion R�ikk�nen back to Formula One following a two-year absence, during which he competed in the World Rally Championship.
It has come at significant expense given R�ikk�nen's financial demands, coupled with the fact they have also opted to dispense with the services of Vitaly Petrov, who brought in considerable sponsorship money from Russia.
Instead, Lotus believe R�ikk�nen is the man to drive them towards their target of achieving victories next year.
'This is a big, big change in strategy we have agreed together,' said Bahar of Group Lotus' partnership with team owners Genii Capital. 'It's not about a marketing exercise, as I read in the press, or a business platform for the shareholders. It's about the F1 team, and that is about performance, and that is when you are on the podium.
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'If we don't invest properly in people, in the team, then you get nowhere, so we have to make this commitment, which includes having non-pay drivers.
'The decision taken with Vitaly shows we have one clear goal, and that is moving upwards. If we get the car right then the sky is the limit for us. You saw that at the beginning of this year, although it turned it was not the right strategy with the car. But it's possible to win races, especially in the first three or four, if the car is right and are up there.'
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Bahar has admitted R�ikk�nen had been on the team's radar for some time, with circumstances finally dictating they could now pursue their interest in the Finn, who was also courted by Williams.
'He was probably on the list of many other teams as well, but he was also on our list 12 months ago,' said Bahar, who recently signed a new four-year deal to continue leading Group Lotus.
'It was about asking whether it was the right moment to get him, could we afford him, and can we replace with sponsors? It's always the same discussions the team have.
'This time, once it was decided we needed an experienced driver and we needed to move up more, we chose not to get the highest-bidding driver in our cockpit, and that's a brave decision.'
Bahar, though, is convinced R�ikk�nen will not let anybody down, despite his clear disaffection with the sport in his final year with Ferrari in 2009.
'Kimi is a very good guy, a very cool guy. We respect him a lot, and that is the reason he is with us,' said Bahar.
'He has matured a lot. He is 32 now…he is not the kid he was in Sauber or McLaren. It's a different time and he has to deliver. I think he realises that.'