• Grosjean’s place confirmed despite accident-strewn season
• Force India delay confirming driver line-up
Lotus have confirmed that Romain Grosjean will remain with Kimi Raikkonen for the 2013 Formula One season.
Grosjean was always expected to get the drive but the delay in the announcement, in the wake of a series of first-lap incidents last year – he was handed a one-race ban for causing a spectacular pile-up at Spa – spawned speculation that Lotus might be looking elsewhere.
The Frenchman said after the Race of Champions in Bangkok over the weekend (his crashes in the 2012 season may have helped him prepare for the head-to-head nature of the Thailand contests) that he is a better driver because of his experiences over the past year. “They helped me to improve myself in the winter – to try to analyse it,” he said.
Force India are not expected to name their driving team until the new year, despite the other teams confirming their line-ups before Christmas. Even the highly regarded Paul di Resta, who has been talked of as one of the big-team stars of the future, has not been confirmed, though he is a shoo-in.
The team principal, Vijay Mallya, has been distracted by other business matters, most pertinently urgent talks with the Gulf carrier Etihad to rescue his grounded Kingfisher Airlines. Bob Fernley, Force India’s deputy team principal, said on Monday night: “I don’t expect any news on this until after Christmas, and maybe not until next month.”
A number of drivers have been tipped to partner Di Resta next year, including Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi, Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari.
Sutil, who was with the Force India team for four years, said on Monday that there were no legal issues surrounding his return, despite being convicted in a German court of wounding the Lotus F1 team executive Eric Lux in a nightclub brawl.
Sutil said: “We have checked of course, me and my management, we checked all the countries, and there is no problem for me to travel – which is why I am here in Bangkok [for the Race of Champions]. All my problems I had last winter are solved, and it is a new beginning.”
Caterham also have an empty seat, having signed Charles Pic from Marussia. They are expected to go for Vitaly Petrov ahead of the test driver Giedo van der Garde, needing experience in the absence of Heikki Kovalainen. Despite Twitter rumours on Monday, Marussia have yet to confirm they have signed Max Chilton to partner Timo Glock, but that confirmation is expected this week.