Kimi Raikkonen is set to miss the final two races of the Formula One season in the United States and Brazil, with the Finn instead opting to undergo surgery on a persistent back issue.
Raikkonen, who was almost forced to sit out the Singapore Grand Prix after he re-ignited an old back injury, which dates back to a testing accident with Sauber in 2001, has been the recent focus of a pay dispute with his Lotus team, which was thought to have been overcome in the run-up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
However, the Finn’s decision to opt for the surgery will effectively end his two year relationship with Lotus, the team with which he returned to Formula One following a two year absence.
The decision to miss the final two races of the season was made as to give the 2007 champion ample time to prepare for his move to Ferrari in 2014, with recovery time from the surgery expected to be around four weeks.
Raikkonen’s manager Steve Robertson confirmed the news to AUTOSPORT, stating: “In an ideal world it would have been nice to finish the season with Lotus in the final two grand prix.
“However, due to the severe pain that Kimi is having, sadly it is not possible.”
With less than a week to the United States Grand Prix, Lotus must now find a replacement for the Finn’s vacant seat, with the obvious choice being the team’s reserve driver, former GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi, although the team may opt for a more experienced star.
Lotus issued a short statement on Sunday afternoon confirming Raikkonen’s absence, adding that a decision on the Finn’s replacement will be announced shortly.
“Lotus F1 Team can confirm that Kimi Räikkönen will miss the final two races of the 2013 Formula 1 season to undergo, and recover from, back surgery.
“The team will make an announcement about the replacement driver for the United States and Brazilian Grands Prix in due course.”
It remains unclear how Raikkonen’s absence will affect his on-going pay dispute with Lotus.
Image courtesy of Lotus F1 Team