Charles Leclerc to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2019

Ferrari has confirmed junior driver Charles Leclerc will step up from Sauber next season to replace Kimi Raikkonen.

Monaco native Leclerc, 20, has impressed in his rookie campaign for Sauber this season, vindicating to many the hype surrounding him after a dominant Formula Two championship season in 2017. Leclerc was first tipped to replace Raikkonen earlier this year and, although that speculation cooled over the following months, it regained traction again after F1’s summer break in August.

On Tuesday, Ferrari confirmed Raikkonen’s departure, which was followed by the news the Finn will return to Sauber on a multi-year deal in 2019, effectively meaning he and Leclerc have swapped positions. Later that morning, Ferrari announced Leclerc’s promotion.

Leclerc also posted messages to social media. In them, he thanked Ferrari for the opportunity but paid tribute to two key figures in his life — late father Herve, who died last year before Leclerc had secured his record-breaking Formula Two championship, and former godfather Jules Bianchi, the Ferrari junior driver who was killed after injuries sustained at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

Sauber also congratulated Leclerc on his promotion.

Team boss Frederic Vasseur said: “It has been a great pleasure to support Charles Leclerc in his rookie year in Formula One. Since his arrival, he has given the team great motivation. We have constantly improved and we will work hard until the end of this season to achieve the best possible results together. We are aware of Charles’ talent and are confident that he will have a bright future. We will keep on following him closely and we wish him the best on his path.”

The news ends Raikkonen’s second tenure with Ferrari, which started in 2014 but has failed to live up to expectations — with two pole positions and no victories to his name in that time. Raikkonen remains the last driver to have won a drivers’ championship in red, doing so in 2007 during his first spell with the Italian team. Raikkonen has been linked with a move in the other direction to Sauber, the team he started his F1 career with in 2001.

Leclerc will partner Sebastian Vettel in 2019.