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Grosjean gets Renault drive

"I will not disappoint and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been possible" - Romain Grosjean.

Lotus Renault GP has signed Frenchman Romain Grosjean to race alongside returning former champion Kimi Räikkönen in the 2012 F1 World Championship.

Grosjean is the reigning GP2 Series champion and was the Lotus Renault team's third driver this season. He was previously a title winner in the F3 Euroseries and GP2 Asia, then became a Renault F1 test driver in 2008.

The 25-year-old made his F1 race debut for the team, as a replacement for Nelson Piquet Jr, during a troubled second half of 2009 - while the team was embroiled in the Singapore-gate scandal.

Grosjean was unable to qualify higher than twelfth or take the chequered flag any higher than 13th, during his seven races. That seat - alongside new signing Robert Kubica - went to Vitaly Petrov for 2010, but Grosjean insists he is now ready to make a much bigger F1 impact.

"I am thrilled to be one of the team's race drivers in 2012. There's a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next year's car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity," he said.

"To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and returning to Formula 1 will be a great experience, and I'm sure will help raise my level of performance too.

"I feel that my successful season in GP2 Series has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport. Returning to Enstone as a race driver feels like coming home.

"I will not disappoint and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been possible. Total, which supports me since 2006, and Gravity Sport Management, are first on this list."

Lotus Renault team principal and MD Eric Boullier added: "I'm delighted that Romain Grosjean will side Kimi next year. Romain has shown a lot of maturity in the past twelve months both through his GP2 Series victory and his development as third driver with us.

"We were impressed when he drove for us in the first practice sessions in Abu Dhabi and Brazil. We are confident that drafting him in to one of our driver's seats will help us in our rebuilding process."

Grosjean's deal means there is no room at Lotus Renault for either of the team's 2011 drivers, Petrov and Bruno Senna (who replaced original Kubica stand-in Nick Heidfeld).

The announcement comes despite Petrov having a deal in place for the 2012 season.

"I would like to thank Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna for their contribution to the team's performance this year and I wish them all the best for the future," said Boullier.

Genii Capital chairman Gerard Lopez said there is now a 'real buzz' around the team, which finished fifth in the 2011 Constructors' Championship.

"Only last week I reiterated that the team is at the start of a brand new cycle. Announcing Romain as our race driver alongside Kimi is great news and will help us achieve our aims of getting back to the very top. The announcements we made today and last week are exciting ones for our team and there is a real buzz surrounding us now."

Upon announcing Grosjean, Lotus Renault also confirmed an extension of its sponsorship deal with Total for another season.

"Total is delighted to give the young talented French driver, Romain Grosjean, the opportunity to fulfill his dream by becoming an F1 driver with the Lotus Renault GP team," said Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier, senior vice-president of corporate communications at Total.

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