SEPTEMBER 21, 2013
Lotus owner Lopez slams Raikkonen after salary comments
Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez has slammed Kimi Raikkonen, after the Finn revealed he is only leaving for Ferrari in 2014 because he has not been paid.
Raikkonen had shocked reporters with his brutal honesty about his unpaid salary on Thursday, but Lopez told the German newspaper Welt that is not the full story.
"He will get his money, as in previous years and as agreed, at the end of the season," Lopez said.
"I am very confused about the timing and content of these statements by Kimi," he added.
Lopez insinuated Raikkonen, who was dropped by Ferrari at the end of 2009 to be replaced by Fernando Alonso, is being ungrateful after Lotus revived his F1 career following his two-year rallying and Nascar sabbatical.
"Unlike with Michael Schumacher and his comeback, he (Raikkonen) had a car that enabled him to win," said Lopez.
"We have done everything to enable him to succeed," he added.
In a separate interview, Lopez said he doubts the money issue alone triggered Raikkonen's decision to leave Lotus.
"If that was the decisive element in him not staying with us, it would surprise me, but it is how it is," he told RTL Letzebuerg.
When also asked about Raikkonen's comments, Lotus boss Eric Boullier defended the team on the basis that the Enstone-based staff and suppliers are prioritised in terms of "cash flow".
"Unfortunately we are not as rich as some other teams on the grid," he said.
But as Raikkonen departs along with a few other well-known names, Blick newspaper reports that twenty more Lotus employees have sent applications to top teams including Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren.
Bild newspaper said some mechanics are also waiting for their pay. Lopez, however, said Lotus is not on the brink of collapse.
"Most of the team's debt is with me, so the only one who can put Lotus out of business is myself," he insisted.
"As long as I don't do that, the future of the team is secure."
In fact, Boullier said on Friday that Lotus is not considering boosting its coffers by signing a 'pay driver' to replace the departing Raikkonen.
He confirmed that Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg are the frontrunners. Boullier did not even rule out signing them both, to the detriment of Romain Grosjean.
"In my position, unfortunately, I have to consider every option," the Frenchman told Brazil's Totalrace.
"But Romain has a contract with us and recently he has been matching Kimi. If he keeps doing that, he has a good future in formula one."