After months of speculation the future of Kimi Raikkonen has finally been confirmed, with statements from both constructors announcing that the Finn will leave Ferrari for Sauber at the end of the current F1 season, signing a two-year deal.
Before his passing this summer, former Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne reportedly made it clear that Raikkonen was to be released at the end of the season, with Charles Leclerc coming in as his replacement.
Numerous scenarios have been mentioned regarding Raikkonen's future, such as him staying on for one more season with Leclerc remaining at Sauber until 2020.
But now it has been confirmed that Raikkonen will return to the team that he previously raced for in 2001 and, in a frantic morning, Ferrari also confirmed the arrival of Leclerc for the 2019 campaign.
The news of his departure from Ferrari this morning was as follows:
"Maranello – Scuderia Ferrari announces that, at the end of the 2018 season, Kimi Raikkonen will step down from his current role.
“During these years, Kimi’s contribution to the Team, both as a driver and on account of his human qualities, has been fundamental. He played a decisive role in the team’s growth and was, at the same time, always a great team player.
“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.”
Rumours that Raikkonen would relinquish his role with Ferrari has not gone down well with fans of 'the Iceman', with over 75,000 signatures supporting an online petition on Change.org urging the team to keep him for at least another year.
But the statement on his departure from Ferrari was quickly followed by one from Sauber, issuing their delight that the former world champion had accepted a deal to join them for the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, in what amounts to a straight swap between the two constructors.
CEO Frederic Vasseur said:
“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.
"Kimi’s undoubted talent and immense experience in Formula One will not only contribute to the development of our car, but will also accelerate the growth and development of our team as a whole. Together, we will start the 2019 season with a strong foundation, driven by the determination to fight for results that count.”
?? #WelcomeKimi ?????
We're delighted to announce that #kimi7 will be joining us for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.