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Lotus confident Raikkonen will stay

Lotus Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland drives during the Belgian F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps August 25, 20
Lotus Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland drives during the Belgian F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps August 25, 20

By Alan Baldwin

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - Lotus expect to finalize an investment deal imminently and are confident Kimi Raikkonen will decide to stay on next season, according to the Formula One team's principal Eric Boullier.

"Yes, I am (confident). He loves this team. He likes to be here and he likes the environment we created for him," the Frenchman told reporters after Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

"I understand he needs to be reassured about the strength of the team financially, the technical challenge we have to face for next year... it's normal."

Boullier said he expected new investment, first announced in June, to be finalized by next week's Italian Grand Prix to put the team on a secure footing.

Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who is out of contract at the end of the year and has been linked to other top teams, indicated at Spa that his salary had not been fully paid and Lotus knew what had to be resolved before any talks could begin.

Boullier said the issues alluded to by Raikkonen, who won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and is currently fourth in the standings, were being addressed.

"They are solvable if we can put in place the package we want to put in place," he said.

"There is a lot of effort in this team to compete at the highest level. Obviously you need to establish then another strategy once you reach the first step. It's like playing in the Premier League, fighting for some wins and let's say top three position in the championship.

"But if you want them to be consistently (successful) after like Man Utd, you need another level of investment and commitment and this is what we are looking and working for."

Lotus announced in June that a consortium of private investors, including an American hedge fund manager and an Abu Dhabi-based multinational business group, had acquired a 35 percent stake.

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However, owner Gerard Lopez subsequently revealed the deal had not been finalized.

"We are still working on it but I think we solved most of the issues now and so we expect before Monza to get the deal completely done," said Boullier.

Raikkonen has been linked to Red Bull, although his manager appeared to have ruled that out last week, and a return to Ferrari but being number one at a well-financed Lotus is an attractive option.

"I've always said I have a very good team here, but things have to be right in all areas," he said last week. "As long as I get a place where all the things are as I want them to be... then that is fine for me."

Lotus have the same Renault engine as champions Red Bull but struggled at Spa, with Raikkonen suffering the first retirement since he began his comeback last year after two seasons in world championship rallying.

The brake failure ended a record run of 27 successive points finishes by the Finn, whose French team mate Romain Grosjean finished only eighth.

For Monza, the fastest track on the calendar and last of the season in Europe, Lotus will have a longer wheelbase car to help the handling.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien)

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