French Grand Prix – According to reports, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen may be replaced by Sauber’s Charles Leclerc at the end of this season.
Raikkonen, who is still Ferrari’s most recent World Champion after his win in 2007, has gone without a race victory with the Scuderia since 2009. Since returning to F1 in 2012, he has won two races with Lotus and numerous podiums but is yet to reclaim the top step of the podium for Ferrari. This isn’t the case with teammate Sebastian Vettel, who currently leads the World Championship in the other car.
With Raikkonen’s form not at the level of his teammate and his pace, particularly in races, on the wane, he has been granted single year extensions on his contracts since 2015. However, his time may be up now as reports ahead of the French Grand Prix weekend suggest that Ferrari are looking at new blood.
Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, who is part of the Ferrari Driver Acadmey, has been singled out as a star of the future and is believed to have been added to Ferrari’s list of possible replacements for Raikkonen. According to Motorsport.com Italy, Leclerc and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo are serious contenders for the seat, but that the cost of Ricciardo alongside Vettel would be too much.
A Leclerc signing would go against Ferrari’s modern ethos of not hiring inexperienced drivers. Traditionally, Ferrari only take on proven drivers who have already started to hit their prime or are experienced stalwarts of the sport. Leclerc, while impressive in the opening races of this season, does not match their usual pattern.
The young driver, who dominated Formula 2 last season, would be the first driver from the Ferrari Driver Academy to make it to a Ferrari F1 drive, should he be signed.
Raikkonen turns 39 years old later this year and, with a career biography being released this year, there have been many rumours that the Finn may walk away from Formula 1, almost 18 years after he made his debut with Sauber.
The driver silly season is in full swing, with rumours also suggesting that McLaren are making a serious move towards trying to sign up Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton & Valtteri Bottas, as well as McLaren’s Fernando Alonso are yet to announce their plans for 2019 and beyond.