Kimi Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of the 2018 season and return to the Sauber team he started his Formula One career with.
On Tuesday, Ferrari confirmed Raikkonen’s departure from the team, followed by the announcement junior driver Charles Leclerc will step up from Sauber in 2019. Raikkonen will go in the other direction, joining the Swiss team on a multi-year deal.
Raikkonen’s 2007 world championship remains the last title won by a Ferrari driver in Formula One. His return to the team in 2014 has failed to generate a return to the top step of the podium, although he has scored two pole positions, including at the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month.
Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene paid tribute to Raikkonen’s legacy at the team.
“During these years, Kimi’s contribution to the team, both as a driver and on account of his human qualities, has been fundamental,” Arrivabene said in a statement. “He played a decisive role in the team’s growth and was, at the same time, always a great team player.
“As a World Champion for Scuderia Ferrari, he will always be part of the team’s history and family. We thank Kimi for all of this and wish him and his family a prosperous future.”
The move represents a big coup for an ever-improving Sauber team, which this year took on Alfa Romeo title sponsorship as part of a wider partnership with Ferrari.
Sauber boss Frederic Vasseur said: “”Signing Kimi Räikkönen as our driver represents an important pillar of our project, and brings us closer to our target of making significant progress as a team in the near future. Kimi’s undoubted talent and immense experience in Formula One will not only contribute to the development of our car, but will also accelerate the growth and development of our team as a whole.
“Together, we will start the 2019 season with a strong foundation, driven by the determination to fight for results that count.”