Raikkonen excited by Formula One return

    Kimi Raikkonen departed the ranks of F1 drivers in 2009 to race in rally and NASCAR events.

    Story highlights

    • Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen is excited about his return to Formula One
    • The 2007 world champion left the sport in 2009 and has spent time in NASCAR and WRC
    • Raikkonen has raced in 156 grandes prix for Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari
    • Sixth stage of Dakar Rally halted by summer snow in Andes
    Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen is excited ahead of his return to Formula One next season, having signed a two-year deal with the renamed Lotus team in November.
    Raikkonen claimed the drivers' title four years ago while racing with the legendary Italian marque Ferrari before leaving the sport in 2009, going on to compete in the World Rally Championship and NASCAR.
    "There has been quite a bit of noise in the press about my comeback and there have been a lot of rumours," the 32-year-old told the UK-based team's website.
    "For me, coming back to Formula One is a good thing and I hope it will be for the team and the fans also."
    Raikkonen has a wealth of experience in F1, having started 156 grands prix across eight seasons racing for Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari, but still gets a thrill out of preparing a car for the grueling year ahead.
    "I love this time of the year at the factory," he said. "There's a real buzz surrounding the new car.
    "Every single department is working flat out in order to have everything ready on time. You can really feel people's dedication and it's nice to be a part of it.
    "You spend so much time sitting in the car so the position is really crucial, it needs to be 100% right. I'd rather spend a lot of time getting it right at this time of the year because there are many races in the season. Getting it right the first time is imperative."
    Raikkonen and Frenchman Romain Grosjean will form a new-look driver partnership at Lotus, replacing Brazil's Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov of Russia.
    This will be the team's first year racing under the legendary Lotus name, having previously been known as Renault and then Lotus Renault after the French manufacturer scaled down its F1 involvement.
    This season will see six world champions take to the track, with Raikkonen lining up alongside Red Bull's 2010 and 2011 titleholder Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes' seven-time winner Michael Schumacher plus Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
    The opening race is the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne on March 18.
    In other motorsport news Friday, the sixth stage of the Dakar Rally had to be halted by summer snow in the Andes.
    The competitors were due to complete a 394km leg from Fiambala in Argentina to Copiapo in Chile containing 247km of special sections, but it was called off when the frontier was closed.
    "Due to the bad weather continuing over the Andes Cordillera, the Chilean authorities were forced to close, for the night, the border at Paso de San Francisco, situated at 4,700m," said a statement on the race's official website.
    The event will resume Saturday in Copiapo for the 573km (with 419km of timed special) seventh stage.
    France's Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres top of the car and bike standings on the 14-day endurance rally.