Kimi Raikkonen's Sauber career to start next week in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI — Kimi Raikkonen will conduct his first test for Sauber next week ahead of his return to the Swiss team for the 2019 Formula One season.

Earlier this year, Raikkonen confirmed a shock return to the team he started his career with in 2001, ending his second stint with Ferrari in the process. The Finn went on to score a popular victory shortly after that announcement at the U.S. Grand Prix, the 21st win of his F1 career.

On Friday, Sauber confirmed he will be behind the wheel of its car for one of the two days of tyre testing which follow this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The test is held at the same venue, the Yas Marina Circuit.

It has not always been easy contractually for drivers to drive for their new teams in post-season tests, but Ferrari’s close relationship with Sauber has likely cleared any obstacles. He will not be the only man sampling new machinery — Renault’s Carlos Sainz will be driving for McLaren ahead of his move there next year.

Raikkonen has frequently spoken of his excitement at joining the fast-improving Sauber operation.

“I’m pretty sure it’s a much smaller team than where I’ve been now, at Ferrari, but I’m really looking forward to it,” Raikkonen said. “It’s going to be different in many ways but the aim is still the same, do well in the races.

“I think it’s more pure racing and less the other stuff in there. Hopefully it will turn out to be good for both of us and that’s our aim. I think it’s what we can do, but obviously I might be completely wrong but we’ll find out. I have a good feeling about it and I’m excited to go there. But it’s close to my home which is obviously a bonus.”

Raikkonen heads into his final Ferrari outing with a quirky stat to his name, as the team’s most recent world champion (2007), race winner (U.S. Grand Prix), pole position (Italian Grand Prix), and driver on the podium (Brazilian Grand Prix). He will effectively swap places with Sauber driver and Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc, who is taking his seat and partnering Sebastian Vettel next season.