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Lotus Renault GP Signs Raikkonen for 2012, One Driver Too Many?

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Lotus Renault GP announced the signing of world champion Kimi Raikkonen for 2012. The elusive Finnish driver has reputation of being a disengaged employee and yet his fans are some of the most ardent in the business.

The team have faced a series of conundrums in 2011 including the near-fatal crash of their star driver Robert Kubica in February, the parting ways with replacement driver Nick Heidfeld, the installation of third-driver Bruno Senna and the "other" third driver Romain Grosjean hanging in the wings as well as current driver Vitaly Petrov.

The team's issues isn't a lack of drivers, its too many drivers. The plot thickens as today it was announced that one seat is definitely taken for 2012 and that is the seat originally reserved for Robert Kubica. The Polish driver has been absent from the media but his management has maintained his desire to drive in 2012.

These comments have been met with very public calls for a test session from team boss Eric Boullier and met with relative silence from the Kubica camp. This gives the impression that Kubica's recovery is taking longer than one summer's reprieve from Formula One and that's not surprising as his hand was nearly severed in the crash.

With Raikkonen aboard, the fans are buzzing about the prospect of the 2012 Formula One grid containing six world champions. The competition is stiff and Raikkonen only adds to that mix of brilliance and pace in a sport known to award both.

The remaining question is likely centered around current driver Vitaly Petrov. The Russian driver signed a 2-year contract last year with an option on 2012 and yet the team has given Petrov a week to decide if he will stay.

According to Petrov's manager, Oksana Kosachenko, via RIA Novosti, the young driver is not sure his fate resides at Lotus Renault GP.

"After today's decision was announced [the Raikkonen signing], I was given a very short amount of time, literally ten days. We have until December 10 to decide if Vitaly stays or leaves," Kosachenko said.

When asked if Petrov could learn from Raikkonen as a teammate if he stays with Lotus Renault GP, Kosachenko replied:

"

You ask the question in the right way: If Vitaly stays in the team."

"It's better to put it this way: Will the management come to an agreement with the owners? If we do, then Vitaly should take it as a given" that he should stay.

It's unclear on what option Petrov has to make and what contingencies were attached to his contract but one could assume it is money or sponsorship backing of Petrov. The team seems confident in placing a short leash on negotiations with Petrov and this is on the heels of a rather torrid diatribe the Russian unleashed last week regarding the team's performance in 2011.

In the end, Lotus Renault has no less than five drivers to consider in their 2012 season and there is very little doubt that Grosjean is a favorite to pair with Raikkonen. Senna brought some cash but the team seem less enthralled with the nephew of legendary Ayrton Senna than fans are.

The team played down the Petrov outburst but seem nonplussed with the Russian and he them. What does it all mean? I would be surprised to see a Raikkonen/Grosjean team in 2012 and that's not a bad combination by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, if the team can deliver a competitive car, the drivers will most likely produce the results.