Kimi Raikkonen has returned to the wheel of a Formula 1 car for the first time since the end of 2009, during a first outing for Lotus at Valencia in Spain.
Raikkonen took to the wheel of a two-year-old Renault R30 car – painted in Lotus' contemporary black and gold livery and using Pirelli's demonstration-spec rubber – for an installation lap this morning.
The Finn is taking part in a two-day session designed to help him re-acclimatize himself with grand prix machinery. His first test with the team's 2012 car will take place at Jerez early next month.
Under the terms of F1's strict testing limitations, teams are not allowed to run contemporary F1 cars apart from at designated tests. However, machinery that is two years old is free from such restrictions, which is why Lotus is able to run him in a 2010 Renault car that is fitted with demo rubber.
Raikkonen last raced in F1 in 2009, when he was dropped by Ferrari and chose to switch to the World Rally Championship for the following year. He competed there for two seasons. Wishing to return to racing, however, Raikkonen briefly tried NASCAR trucks last year before eventually agreeing to a deal with Lotus to return to F1 in 2012.
Raikkonen said last month that he believed the biggest hurdle he faced in returning to F1 was getting used to the tires. As he explained on the team's website: "I don't think I've lost any speed. Getting on top of the tires will be the hardest thing, of course, but I'm not really worried."