Imminent investment set to sort Lotus’ Raikkonen and Hulkenberg issues
- Credit: AP
Hethel-backed Lotus appear poised to confirm an investment deal has finally been agreed – allowing them to avert the threat of Kimi Raikkonen boycotting the last two races of the 2013 Formula One season and the team to sign Nico Hulkenberg.
Negotiations with Mansoor Ijaz, chairman of a consortium of private investors known as Quantum Motorsports who are buying a 35pc stake in the team, have been long and complicated.
But Lotus' long standing financial issues, which have resulted in the Enstone-based team failing to pay Raikkonen any of his £10m salary this season, are on the brink of finally being resolved.
The Finn revealed on Friday after failing to show in Abu Dhabi the previous day for his media commitments ahead of the grand prix, that he almost opted to boycott the weekend altogether.
But to avoid reneging on his side of the deal, Raikkonen turned up – only to then crash out on the first lap after starting at the back of the grid due to a penalty for a technical infringement in qualifying.
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Conspiracy theorists immediately suggested the move was a deliberate one on Raikkonen's part, which in turn would lead to him missing the final two grands prix in the United States and Brazil.
However, Ijaz has insisted the matter will be resolved with the 34-year-old, who is joining Ferrari next season.
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'I met with Kimi's manager Steve Robertson. I've apologised to Steve, we've apologised to Kimi,' said Ijaz. 'We intend to not only make sure they (the unpaid wages) are made whole and then some, but we are intending to also compensate our employees and management team.
'I am confident he will run the last two races and fulfil his professional obligations to us, and us to him.'
Suggesting the announcement of a deal with Lotus was imminent, Ijaz added: 'We're going to clear off the debt, and then we're going to bring very high quality sponsors, which you'll see very soon. Those sponsors will give us the longevity and capacity to compete at the top end of the business for a long time.
'They (the team) 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.'
Such immediate actions also include the signing of current Sauber driver Hulkenberg, who has held off putting pen to paper due to the delay over the deal between Lotus and Quantum.
'We, as incoming owners and shareholders, have made it very clear what our preference is,' said Ijaz. 'I wish the transition had been smoother between Kimi and the next driver, who we believe will be Nico Hulkenberg, but sometimes in life things don't happen so clearly and as nicely as you would like them to.'
Ijaz was unable to comment on a timeframe for a deal with Hulkenberg to be concluded, but added: 'I can tell you the contract was prepared and ready to go.
'I know Nico is excited about doing this and I think it is a matter of a very short period before that is all finalised.'
Speculation had been rife during the weekend that Pastor Maldonado would pip Hulkenberg to Raikkonen's seat – helped by the significant financial backing of his Venezuelan sponsors.
While the Enstone outfit has carried the Lotus name over recent seasons, the Norfolk marque has not paid for the privilege as the car manufacturer endures its own financial reorganisation.