After just one season in the sport, Charles Leclerc will race for Ferrari in 2019, whilst Kimi Raikkonen will extend his career and drive for the Sauber F1 team, it has been confirmed.
With the 2007 world champion’s future once again being one of the main talking points of Formula One’s ‘silly season’, Ferrari have revealed that they will not be retaining Raikkonen for the 2019 season and have promoted their development driver Leclerc, who has enjoyed an impressive first Formula One season at the Sauber team.
Following championship-winning campaigns in GP3 and Formula Two, Leclerc earned a promotion Sauber for 2018.
Heavily out-performing team-mate Marcus Ericsson, Leclerc has shone at the Swiss team, making three Q3 appearances and taking points finishes in five races, including a sixth-place finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
His impressive form earned the support of former Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne, who was keen to give the second Ferrari seat to the Monegasque driver.
However, Marchionne’s death earlier in the year threatened to derail Leclerc’s likely promotion, but those in charge of Ferrari have decided to obey Marchionne’s wishes and take a chance on the 20-year-old.
Effectively in a swap deal, Raikkonen will rejoin Sauber on a two-year deal, the team with which the Finn made his Formula One debut back in 2001.
“Signing Kimi Raikkonen 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,” said Sauber team principal Frédéric Vasseur.
“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.”
Raikkonen is Ferrari’s second-longest serving Formula One driver (after Michael Schumacher), having two spells at the team.
His first stint from 2007-2009 was by far his most successful. He took nine wins and his one-and-only world championship triumph in a dramatic 2007 season.
He took time out of the sport in 2010 and 2011 before returning with Lotus in 2012, taking two wins in a two-year period before rejoining Ferrari in 2014.
In that time he’s taken 23 podiums (as of Italy 2018) and two pole positions, but has so far failed to stand on the top step of the podium since his last win with Lotus at the 2013 Australian GP.
In a statement, Ferrari paid tribute to Raikkonen’s contributions to the team both on and off the track.
“Scuderia Ferrari announces that, at the end of the 2018 season, Kimi Raikkonen will step down from his current role.
“During these years, Kimi’s contributions to the team, both as a driver and on account of his human qualities, has been fundamental. 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.”
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images
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