Kimi Raikkonen eyes track return in 2010-spec Renault

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen won the world title with Ferrari in 2007

Former champion Kimi Raikkonen will have his first taste of a Formula 1 car in over two years later this month.

The 32-year-old Finn, who is returning to F1 after two years in rallying, will drive a 2010 Renault car at Valencia's Ricardo Tormo track on 23-24 January.

Raikkonen, who won the 2007 world title with Ferrari, will be driving for Lotus, who raced as Renault in 2011.

His first taste of the team's 2012 car will come at the first pre-season test on 7 February in Jerez, in south Spain.

Testing in F1 is banned, apart from three official pre-season tests and one during the season in May, but teams are allowed to run cars that are at least two years old outside that schedule.

Raikkonen is the second former champion to return to F1 in the last two years, following Michael Schumacher's comeback for the start of the 2010 season with Mercedes.

The German legend, who turned 43 earlier this month, struggled in his first season and even after two years is yet to recapture his former greatness.

Raikkonen, who never managed to get onto the pace in his two-year sojourn in the World Rally Championship, will encounter a new type of tyre than he was used to - Pirelli replaced Bridgestone as F1's sole supplier at the start of 2011.

But he has said that he is confident he will not face the same problems as Schumacher.

"I don't think I've lost any speed," he told the Lotus website.

"Getting on top of the tyres will be the hardest thing, of course, but I'm not really worried."

His comeback has been criticised in some quarters, but Raikkonen said at a seat fitting at the Lotus factory last week that he was not concerned about whether outsiders felt his return was a good idea.

"It has no effect on me," he said. "Sometimes you hear some nonsense and sometimes you hear nice things.

"The main thing is that coming back is what I wanted and I have a good opportunity with the team, so I'm happy.

"I have never really looked at what people say or think. I do my own thing and, as long as I'm happy with it, then that's the main thing for me."

He last drove an F1 car at the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009, and his last of 18 wins was in the Belgian Grand Prix, at the end of August that year.