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Lotus hopes to return to the top

Lotus aims to be back at the top in Formula One within three years, team principal Eric Boullier said on Friday after announcing France's Romain Grosjean would partner Kimi Räikkönen next season.

The team were constructors champions as Renault in 2005 and 2006, with Fernando Alonso also winning the drivers' crowns, but have not won a race since 2008 and finished a distant fifth overall this year.

Both their 2012 drivers will be making comebacks, with 2007 world champion Räikkönen returning after two years in world rallying.

Grosjean, the 2011 champion in the GP2 support series, started seven races with Renault in 2009 without scoring a point.

"We've changed our two drivers, which is not fashionable but corresponds to owners Genii's desire to become a 'Top Team' again," Boullier told reporters. "The plan is to be world champions in two or three years' time."

Grosjean could not resist a smile at that idea.

"World champion in two or three years, that's fine by me," grinned the Swiss-born driver. "It's hard to describe how I feel. I've had a rather unusual journey with a first stint in Formula One which ended in 2009 in a not very glorious fashion but which was necessary for my maturity. It all makes me believe that perseverance pays off."

Grosjean, who worked in a Swiss private bank while racing his way up to Formula One, will not be over-awed by Räikkönen after previously being with Alonso in a team built around the Spaniard, now with Ferrari.

"I'm starting to get used to racing alongside a world champion," he said. "I will have to try and match his pace. He has stopped for two years but is a great champion capable of doing good things."

Grosjean will be one of at least two French drivers on the starting grid, with Charles Pic lining up for Russian-backed Marussia, the renamed Virgin Racing who have yet to score a point.

"If we had a rivalry it was in the other categories before F1," said Grosjean. "We are both there now and even if the aim is to be the best on a sporting level, there's no rivalry."

Boullier said the team's relationship with Robert Kubica, the Pole who would have been their number one this year but ruled himself out for the season with a near-fatal rally accident, was at 'point zero'.

"I don't know if there will be a future between Lotus Renault and Robert," he said. "We have two race drivers, we'll see who is the third (reserve)."

Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio, who lost his seat at Virgin/Marussia after a rookie 2011 season, could be in the frame as one of the drivers in Genii's Gravity Sport Management stable run by Boullier.

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