GERARD JULIEN | AFP | Getty Images
Ferrari’s Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen (R) and Sauber F1’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (L) wave from a truck during a parade ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix de France at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on June 24, 2018.
Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen is to leave Ferrari at the end of this season and bring to an end his second spell with the team.
Monaco’s 20-year-old rookie Charles Leclerc will replace Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2019, with the Finn moving back in the other direction to fill his seat at Sauber.
Leclerc, a graduate of the Ferrari Driver Academy, has been long tipped for promotion to the sport’s oldest and most successful team. He only made his debut with Sauber this season after winning last year’s Formula Two title and has impressed with five top 10 finishes in fourteen races.
He will now partner four times world champion Sebastian Vettel from next season. Raikkonen meanwhile is still the last man to win a world title for Ferrari back in 2007, but hasn’t won a race since 2013.
“Scuderia Ferrari announces that, at the end of the 2018 season, Kimi Raikkonen will step down from his current role,” said Ferrari in a statement on Tuesday. “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.”
Sauber gave 38-year-old Raikkonen his first drive in Formula One back in 2001 and he spent a season there, before moving to McLaren. He announced the return on his social media account saying “Guess who’s back?! Next two years with @sauberf1team ahead! Feels extremely good to go back where it all began!”
Raikkonen has won 20 Formula One races during his career and has finished on the podium a total of 100 times. He has been a popular member of the Ferrari team, with 87,000 of the Italian team’s fans previously signing an online petition to keep him.
“Signing Kimi Raikkonen as our driver represents an important pillar of our project, and brings us closer to our target of making significant progress as a team in the near future,” said Sauber Team Principal Frederic Vasseur as the news was announced.