After days, even months of speculation, the official announcement came today: Charles Leclerc will replace Kimi Raikkonen in Scuderia Ferrari starting from the 2019 season
The up-and-coming Ferrari Driver Academy protégé, winner of the 2017 F2 Championship and author of a surprising F1 rookie season for Sauber, was said to be destined for Raikkonen’s seat since his debut in Formula 1, it being only a matter of time. Despite Raikkonen’s brilliant season, collecting more podiums that teammate Sebastian Vettel, setting the fastest lap in F1 history and the record for oldest pole-sitter in Monza, the 38-year-old Finn will be let go after Abu Dhabi.
Kimi’s future in Sauber
However, this is not the last we will hear of the Finn: Raikkonen is set to join Alfa Romeo Sauber for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Finnish media and Mika Salo had already speculated on such an outcome, hinting that Kimi would be precious in fostering the development of the car, eventually stepping down and joining the team as a shareholder. The 2007 World Champion is therefore closing his career in the team where he first started.
The business talks
The decision might have been heavily influenced by Leclerc’s contractual obligations derived from his Ferrari Driver Academy membership: the Monegasque is tied to the Prancing Horse until 2019, the Scuderia deciding his future. If a valuable seat hadn’t been offered by that date, Leclerc would have been free to try his luck elsewhere, and Maranello clearly didn’t want to lose such a shining talent. Unofficial reports state that after trying to secure a place for him in Haas, but being met with the American team’s reluctancy, Ferrari’s only chance of keeping Charles was anticipating his transition in the main team to 2019. Furthermore, rumour has it that Sergio Marchionne had already signed a pre-deal with Leclerc for the 2019 season, and that the new board was wary of disattending one of Marchionne’s final decisions.
We wish both Kimi and Charles good luck in their future endeavours.