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Raikkonen could walk out over wages

By Alan Baldwin

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen could walk out on his Lotus Formula One team before the end of the season after telling reporters at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday he was still waiting for his wages.

The Finn, who is returning to Ferrari next season after two years with Lotus, also said he had considered not racing this weekend.

The 2007 world champion broke his silence after failing to turn up at the Yas Marina circuit on Thursday, the traditional media day ahead of a grand prix weekend.

His comments followed media speculation the relationship between team and driver had broken down and came only hours after Lotus had attempted to portray the situation in a much more positive light.

"I came here only because hopefully we found an understanding on certain issues we have been having," Raikkonen said after taking part in practice.

"Hopefully it will be fixed and we can finish the season as well as we can."

Asked whether he could skip the final races in Austin, Texas, and Brazil, the Finn replied: "For sure. I enjoy racing, I enjoy driving - but a big part of it is business and sometimes when that is not dealt with like it should, we end up in an unfortunate situation.

"You have to put the line somewhere and if it goes over that ... it is not really my fault any more.

"Sometimes it is not very nice when you hear you are not really a team player and you don't have the interests of the team - but you have been paid zero euros the whole year," added the 34-year-old.

Lotus, who say they are close to securing funding from new investors, have recognized previously that they owe Raikkonen outstanding salary but neither side has stated publicly the full extent of it.

RADIO ROW

The driver and team were involved in an angry exchange at last weekend's Indian Grand Prix when track operations manager Alan Permane was heard swearing over the radio at Raikkonen as he told him to get out of team mate Romain Grosjean's way.

Raikkonen, who won his title with Ferrari, replied with a similar expletive and his manager was later quoted as saying he had never heard of a team treating their driver in such a manner.

Lotus posted an interview with chairman Gerard Lopez on their website (www.lotusf1team.com) in which he spoke warmly of the driver and played down tensions.

Their partnership, he said, had been a "perfect fit".

"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," added Lopez.

"A lot was made about the comments ... 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 everyone is passionate about racing and sometimes these things do happen," said Lopez.

Raikkonen made his comeback with the team last year after spending two years in rallying and other international motorsport series.

Lopez said Lotus had always believed in the Finn and wanted to keep him but were not able to match Ferrari's offer. He hailed the Finn as the only reason the team was now fighting for second place in the standings.

"For us essentially he was the perfect puzzle piece and for him I think it was a perfect fit. I still think it's one of the best partnerships in Formula One," he said.

Lotus are 24 points behind Ferrari in the constructors' championship, 28 adrift of second-placed Mercedes with three races to go.

(Editing by Alison Wildey and Tony Jimenez)

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