ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen criticized the team Friday for not paying his salary this season and threatened to skip the final two races of the season in protest.
Speaking after the second practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the former F1 champion said he had to be persuaded to race here and he’s still upset about a tense exchange with a member of the technical staff at last weekend’s Indian GP.
“Sometimes it is not very nice when you hear that you are not really a team player, and you don’t have the interests of the team (at heart) _ but you have been paid zero euro(s) the whole year,” said Raikkonen, who is usually reluctant to speak to media.
Raikkonen, who is joining Ferrari next season, added that he would consider skipping the United States GP and Brazilian GP if he does not receive his money.
“For sure. I enjoy racing, I enjoy driving, but a big part of it is business,” he said. “Sometimes when that is not dealt with like it should, we end up in an unfortunate situation. You have to put the line somewhere, and if it goes over that … it is not really my fault.”
Raikkonen’s comments came just hours after Lotus chairman Gerard Lopez played down the rift between Raikkonen and trackside operations director Alan Permane last Sunday. Raikkonen was told over the race radio by Permane not to hold up teammate Romain Grosjean.
Raikkonen skipped media duties on Thursday, which fueled speculation about growing unrest, and the 34-year-old Finnish driver confirmed that he came close not to racing in Abu Dhabi.
“I came here only because hopefully we found an understanding on the certain issues we have been having,” Raikkonen said. “Hopefully it will be fixed and we can finish the season as well as we can.”
Although the argument with Permane was not the main factor in his decision to speak out, Raikkonen said it did upset him.
“It is a part of it. It is true those things should not happen, but they have happened,” Raikkonen said. “(But) that is not really the issue. It is all the other stuff.”
The 2007 champion is annoyed that his loyalty to the team has been questioned despite racing without pay.
“It doesn’t put you in the best place,” he said. “That is how it goes and hopefully, like I said, we found an understanding on both sides on how we should deal with the situation right now.”
Only hours earlier, Lopez insisted all was fine.
“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,” Lopez said Friday. “It certainly wasn’t 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.”
However, Lopez acknowledged the financial situation was poorly handled.
“For a long time we had the opportunity to keep him in our hands, but we weren’t able to operate to the timeframe _ or make the offer _ that Ferrari were able to do,” Lopez said. “For me this brought sadness, as it’s like a prodigal son leaving us.”
Lotus still has a shot at finishing second behind Red Bull in the constructors’ championship. Mercedes, with 313 points, and Ferrari, with 309, are in a stronger position. Lotus stands at 285.
“The only reason we’re fighting for second is because of all the points that Kimi has scored,” Lopez said.
Raikkonen is third overall behind Fernando Alonso and recently crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel.
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