Kimi returns to Sauber, swaps places with Leclerc

Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of this season and rejoin Sauber. The 38-year-old Finn will be replaced at Ferrari by 20-year-old Monaco-born Sauber driver Charles Leclerc, who will partner Sebastian Vettel in 2019.

By Our Bureau & Agencies
  • Published 12.09.18
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Kimi Raikkonen

Calcutta/London: Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of this season and rejoin Sauber. The 38-year-old Finn will be replaced at Ferrari by 20-year-old Monaco-born Sauber driver Charles Leclerc, who will partner Sebastian Vettel in 2019.

Raikkonen has spent five years at Ferrari in his second spell at the Italian team.

"The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team is delighted to announce that Kimi Raikkonen will join the team from 2019. The 2007 Formula One World Champion has signed for the next two seasons. In his career, Raikkonen has secured 20 Grands Prix wins and 100 podiums, making him one of the most highly regarded drivers in the history of the sport. The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team looks forward to the arrival of the Finnish driver, with whom the team shares the common goal of achieving ambitious results," Sauber's F1 team said in a statement.

Ferrari, too, confirmed Raikkonen's departure.

The 38-year-old Raikkonen had made his F1 debut in 2001 with Sauber, the team he will race for again in 2019.

Raikkonen left F1 two years after winning the world title with Ferrari in 2007 and spent two years competing in the World Rally Championship, before returning to F1 with Lotus in 2012. Raikkonen moved back to Ferrari in 2014.

"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," the team added.

Leclerc, a Ferrari protege who has been long tipped for promotion to the sport's oldest and most successful team, made his debut with Sauber this season after winning last year's Formula Two title. He will now partner four times world champion and title contender Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen, 38, posted a message on Instagram announcing he would be rejoining Sauber - a team with Ferrari engines and Alfa Romeo sponsorship - on a two-year deal. Leclerc is part of a wave of hungry young drivers, including 20-year-old Max Verstappen at Red Bull and 18-year-old British rookie Lando Norris at McLaren, coming through and making their mark.

"Dreams do come true," Leclerc, a member of the Ferrari driver academy, posted on Twitter. "I will be eternally grateful to Ferrari for the opportunity given."

In a statement he paid tribute to his late father and his friend and godfather Jules Bianchi, another Ferrari protege, who died in 2015.