Ferrari Kimi Raikkonen departure was all part of a long-term approach

MARINA BAY, Singapore — Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene says a long-term approach was the main reason behind the team replacing the hugely experienced Kimi Raikkonen with 20-year-old Charles Leclerc for 2019.

The team announced ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix that Leclerc, a former GP3 and Formula 2 champion, would join the Scuderia to become the second youngest driver to race for Ferrari in the team’s illustrious history. On the same day it was confirmed Raikkonen would return to Sauber, the team he made his Formula One debut with in 2001.

Despite heaping praise on Raikkonen, Arrivabene said the team had to look ahead further than 12 months and not make a decision that would only benefit them in the short-term.

“My job is to look forward to the future of the team and that was the justification of the choice,” Arrivabene said in regards to Leclerc’s signing. “When you make choices like this that are related to the drivers, you have to do so thinking about the future of the team.

“This is nothing to do with the respect I have for Kimi which is great, as a human being and as a driver [but] I think we made the right choice for us and for Kimi.”

At 38, Raikkonen is the oldest driver on the grid and has spent a total of eight seasons at Ferrari over two different stints. And although he won the 2007 world championship with Ferrari, he hasn’t tasted victory since returning to the team at the beginning of 2014. In fact, his last win came for Lotus at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, more than 100 races ago.

Arrivabene also shared details of how Raikkonen took the news, saying he completely understood why the team had chosen not to offer him a contract extension.

“Kimi was quite fine. The relationship with Kimi is so good and he understands [the decision],” Arrivabene said. “It’s not only a question to tell him this is the decision, my job is to take him through the process and I took him through the process of the decision.

“He didn’t even try to say I would like you to change your mind. He’s a professional driver.”

Raikkonen’s 2019 teammate at Sauber is yet to be confirmed but is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.