Kimi Räikkönen to leave Ferrari
2007 World Championship winner Kimi Räikkönen is ending his five-year second spell with Italian giants Ferrari to re-join Sauber. 20-year-old Charles Leclerc goes in the opposite direction, joining Ferrari to partner Sebastian Vettel.
Former World Champion Kimi Räikkönen is returning to his Formula 1 roots by re-joining Sauber, the team in which the 38-year-old made his debut back in 2001. The Finn was the last driver to bring success to Ferrari, winning the 2007 Championship, but Räikkönen has seen his number one status under challenge from Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
The news of the swap deal for the 2019 season won’t have come as much of a surprise to many. Rumours that Räikkönen was being edged out the door had been circulating for months, much to the fury of some fans. An online petition demanding that Ferrari keep Kimi Räikkönen for another year received over 76k signatures but failed in its bid.
Sauber know they are gaining one of the most consistent drivers in Formula 1. Last year, Räikkönen just missed out on a podium finish in the Championship by finishing fourth and currently sits third in this year’s leader board with 9 podium finishes.
These podium finishes will be vital if Sauber are to be realistic challengers in the Constructor race. They currently sit in 9th place out of 12 Constructors on just 19 points and no podium finishes. Ferrari are second on that list with 390 points and 17 podiums, bettered only marginally by Mercedes on the same number of podiums but with 415 points.
Räikkönen has had an unorthodox career. He quit the sport altogether after winning the 2007 World Championship to take up rally racing. He competed in the World Rally Championship in 2009, 2010 and 2011 but a 10th place finish was the best he could achieve. Kimi then signed a deal with Toyota team Kyle Busch Motorsports to take part in the Truck Series. Once again, Räikkönen couldn’t replicate his Formula 1 success with 15th and 27th placed finishes.
On 29th November 2012, Räikkönen signalled his return to Formula 1 and signed for two years with Lotus. In those two years he finished 3rd and 5th in the championship. In 2014 he signed for Ferrari, a team he had enjoyed three years with back in 2007. At his two spells at Ferrari he has finished 1st, 3rd, 6th, 12th, 4th, 6th and 4th. Räikkönen currently sits third in this years’ competition.
Charles Leclerc’s switch to Ferrari is an intriguing one. Ferrari normally prefer older and proven drivers, so bringing a 20-year-old into the fold is a radical change of strategy. But it is one that is welcomed by Leclerc, who took to Twitter to express his delight, saying:
Dreams do come true, I’ll be driving for Ferrari for the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship. I will be eternally grateful to Ferrari for the opportunity given. – Charles Leclerc, Formula 1 Driver
Like Räikkönen, this will be Charles Leclerc’s second spell at Scuderia Ferrari. Leclerc was a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy that won the GP3 Series championship in 2016 and took the Formula 2 title in 2017.
So far this season his best finish was 6th at Azerbaijan in April. His last three finishes were 13th in Australia, 12th in Bahrain and 19th in China.