Romain Grosjean will make his return to Grand Prix racing, with the Lotus F1 (nee Renault) team announcing that the Frenchman – courtesy of a fresh injection of funds from fuel partner Total – will team up with Kimi Räikkönen next season.
The news followed recent speculation that the Frenchman – who is managed by team boss Eric Boullier’s Gravity management team – would replace Vitaly Petrov next year, despite the Russian seemingly holding a valid contract for the 2012 season.
After making a less than auspicious Grand Prix debut with a handful of outings for Renault in the latter part of the 2009 season, many had written off Swiss-born Grosjean as a B-grade driver.
However, he has worked hard at rebuilding his reputation, and the last two years have seen him grow in leaps and bounds. He smashed all comers to win last year’s AutoGP championship, before going on to win both the GP2 Asia and GP2 Series championship crowns this year.
His strong results and his continued connection with the Renault team saw him awarded Friday practice outings at the Abu Dhabi and Brazilian Grands Prix, with his consistent performances (and support from Total) proving enough to cement the deal.
“I am thrilled to be one of the team’s race drivers in 2012,” Grosjean is quoted as saying in the team’s press release.
“There’s a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next year’s car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity.
“To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and returning to Formula 1 will be a great experience, and I’m sure will help raise my level of performance too. I feel that my successful season in GP2 Series has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport.”
“We were impressed when he drove for us in the first practice sessions in Abu Dhabi and Brazil,” added team principal Eric Boullier. “We are confident that drafting him in to one of our driver’s seats will help us in our rebuilding process.”
While Petrov’s departure was implied in the announcement, Boullier’s statement also confirmed that the team would not be retaining the services of Bruno Senna, who had stepped up to replace Nick Heidfeld when he was sacked after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
[Original image via LRGP Media]