VIDEO: Kimi R�ikk�nen in 2012 F1 return with Lotus Renault
Former Formula One world champion Kimi R�ikk�nen will make his high profile return to the sport next season – racing for Norfolk's iconic Lotus marque.
The 32-year-old Finn was on top of the world in 2007 with Ferrari, having also spent five seasons with McLaren – but opted to leave the sport two years ago to join the World Rally Championship before racing in the United States' Nascar series this year.
On Tuesday Lotus Renault – which will inherit sole use of the Lotus marque from next season and run as a Lotus chassis – confirmed R�ikk�nen has signed a two-year deal with the Enstone team, hoping to add to his tally of 18 grand prix wins, 62 podiums and 16 pole positions.
R�ikk�nen's arrival will make it six former F1 world champions on the grid in 2012, alongside Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
'I'm delighted to be coming back to Formula One after a two-year break, and I'm grateful to Lotus Renault for offering me this opportunity,' said the Finn, who was also being sought by Williams.
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'My time in the World Rally Championship has been a useful stage in my career as a driver, but I can't deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming.
'It was an easy choice to return with Lotus Renault as I have been impressed by the scope of the team's ambition. Now I'm looking forward to playing an important role in pushing the team to the very front of the grid.'
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R�ikk�nen's arrival fills one of Lotus' two race seats for 2012, after Robert Kubica – who missed the entire 2011 campaign following his rallying accident in February – confirmed he will not be ready for the start of next season.
Russian driver Vitaly Petrov and Brazilian Bruno Senna, who finished the season with Lotus Renault in Brazil on Sunday, and reserve driver Romain Grosjean will all be scrapping over Enstone's remaining seat.
G�rard Lopez, chairman of the team's owners Genii Capital, promised more exciting announcements to come as the Hethel-backed Lotus Renault outfit aims to put a bad season well and truly behind them.
'All year long, we kept saying that our team was at the start of a brand new cycle,' said Lopez. 'Backstage we have been working hard to build the foundations of a successful structure and to ensure that we would soon be able to fight at the highest level.
'Kimi's decision to come back to F1 with us is the first step of several announcements which should turn us into an even more serious contender in the future.'