MARANELLO (Italy): Kimi Raikkonen is leaving Ferrari for Sauber and will be replaced by rookie Charles Leclerc.
Raikkonen, who won the 2007 Formula One title with Ferrari, will be heading back to Sauber from next season while Leclerc will take his seat alongside Sebastian Vettel.
The 20-year-old Leclerc is touted as one of the most talented young drivers in F1 and had been widely expected to move to Ferrari if Raikkonen left.
The young driver from Monaco had earned praise from across the F1 paddock including from world champions Vettel and Lewis Hamilton after a strong showing in his debut season with Sauber.
“Scuderia Ferrari announces that, at the end of the 2018 season, Kimi Raikkonen will step down from his current role,” said Ferrari. “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.”
Raikkonen will be back with the team where he started his F1 career in 2001. The Finn signed with Sauber for the next two seasons.
Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur said signing Raikkonen represented an important step in the team’s project.
“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,” Vasseur said.
Raikkonen has 20 wins and 100 podium finishes in his F1 career. Nine of those wins came with Ferrari, where he had been since 2014. He also was with the team from 2007-09 before leaving to compete in the World Rally Championship for two years. He returned to F1 in 2012 to drive for Lotus, where he stayed until rejoining Ferrari two years later.
Leclerc has had a promising start to his rookie season, finishing sixth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with 16 points from 14 races.
He has been nurtured by the Scuderia Ferrari for several years and is managed by Nicolas Todt, son of former Ferrari team principal and current FIA president Jean Todt.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018