Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez has played down claims of a rift between the team and Kimi Raikkonen.
Relations with Raikkonen, who is leaving to join Ferrari next year, became strained in India when he was told to let team mate Romain Grosjean overtake him.
Raikkonen and trackside operations director Alan Permane swore at each other on the radio during the exchange which team principal Eric Boullier later apologised for.
Raikkonen failed to appear at the Yas Marina circuit for media commitments on Thursday but arrived in time for the start of practice on Friday.
Lopez said: “Recently a lot was made about the comments between Alan Permane and Kimi during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange taking a matter of seconds in the course of a two-year relationship”.
“It certainly wasn?óÔé¼Ôäót the most beneficial few seconds, but you have to step back and accept that everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen.”
Lopez described Raikkonen as “often misunderstood”. “The whole ‘Iceman’ thing actually prevails on the track from where he is very cool-headed and a very good driver,” he said. “In reality he?óÔé¼Ôäós a kind guy, he?óÔé¼Ôäós a very talkative guy and over the two years I?óÔé¼Ôäóve gained a friend in Formula One which is a difficult place to do so.”
He said he was “sad” the team had been unable to retain Raikkonen, who has “delivered big time”, for 2014. “The only reason we?óÔé¼Ôäóre fighting for second in the world championship is because of all the points that Kimi has scored. We?óÔé¼Ôäóre doing everything we can to ensure Kimi and the team can continue to fight right up to the chequered flag in Brazil.”
He also credited Raikkonen for helping Grosjean improve his performance. “For Romain to be delivering the results he is doing so now, it?óÔé¼Ôäós really very much because he is driving next to probably one of the best Formula One drivers ever,” said Lopez. “Kimi has been a tremendous help in the development of Romain.”
2013 F1 season
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