Ferrari announced Tuesday morning that Kimi Raikkonen would not return to the Scuderia in 2019. The team also announced that Sauber’s Charles LeClerc will replace Raikkonen and be teammate to Sebastian Vettel.
Subsequently, Sauber announced that Kimi Raikkonen would rejoin the team after a 17-year absence. Raikkonen came into F1 in 2001 as a rookie with Sauber before leaving for McLaren in 2002, back when McLaren was a force to be reckoned with. Now Raikkonen’s career comes full circle and he will pilot a Sauber in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
As for Charles LeClerc, he moves up to Ferrari after an impressive rookie season for Alfa Romeo Sauber. LeClerc also becomes the first driver from Ferrari’s Young Drivers Academy to make it into a Ferrari race seat. Before this move being a part of the Ferrari Young Drivers Academy essentially meant you got some nice Ferrari clothes, garage passes and some random test at Hungary in the summertime.
Ferrari finally went against their normal way of finding drivers. Instead of signing the best established free agent on the market they went for a relative unknown in F1 experience. LeClerc has been touted as a can’t miss talent, especially after his GP2 season in 2017. Now LeClerc has to perform for the biggest team in F1. A failure on LeClerc’s fault will almost guarantee Ferrari will never sign a young driver to a race seat ever again.
Why Sauber For Kimi?
By all accounts, many believe Raikkonen should have retired after the 2019 season. However the 38-year old is still competing at a high level. With 9 podiums in 2018, it has to be hard for Raikkonen to know he’s being forced out. A move to Sauber keeps him in a semi-competitive car that will hopefully be stronger in 2019.
There is a rumor floating around that Raikkonen will be given an ownership stake in the team. That would make the most sense as to why he took this seat. Raikkonen will wheel the Sauber better than anyone since Robert Kubica. An ownership stake will help the Finn transition to retirement after the 2020 season.
Raikkonen is a motorsports fan, he owns a motocross team, he used to own a World Rally team, now he could have a stake in an F1 team. Raikkonen is a race car driver but above all else, he is a businessman and a stake in a team relatively close to his home in Switzerland makes all the sense in the world.
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