Formula One: Raikkonen arrives, Lopez plays down furore
Abu Dhabi: Ferrari-bound Finn Kimi Raikkonen arrived in time for practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday, ending speculation that he may stay away after a controversial exchange in a row with the Lotus team last weekend.
The 2007 world champion, who has reportedly not been paid his salary this year, exchanged profanities with Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane in a row broadcast from the team radio during last Sunday`s Indian Grand Prix.
On Friday, he was sixth fastest in opening practice, five places behind his French team-mate Romain Grosjean, who had raced from 17th on the grid to finish third in India.
It was when Raikkonen was told to move over and allow the charging Grosjean to pass him that last Sunday`s race erupted with expletives and profanities.
Lotus later issued an apology for the language used and broadcast on team radio.
Raikkonen`s absence on Thursday was interpreted as a deliberate snub to the team and the media, but on Friday team chairman Gerard Lopez tried to play down the clear tension between the Finn and Lotus.
In an interview published on the team website, Lopez said: "Of course, recently a lot was made about the comments between Alan Permane and Kimi during the course of a tense moment in a race, but this was just one exchange, taking a matter of seconds, in the course of a two-year relationship.
"It certainly wasn`t the most beneficial few seconds, but you have to step back and accept that everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen."
Lopez insisted that the situation between Lotus and Raikkonen was exaggerated.
"One of the unfortunate things about being in the limelight is that people are always trying to make it look like there are huge fights going on," he said.
"For instance, we discussed the fact that Kimi was signing for Ferrari between the two of us and it was a very frank discussion.
"It was factual, emotional at the same time and although it`s funny to say, he`s a very human human-being.
"The whole `Iceman` thing actually prevails on the track from where he is very cool-headed and a very good driver.
"In reality, he`s a kind guy, he`s a very talkative guy and over the two years I`ve gained a friend in Formula One - which is a difficult place to do so."