Finnish Formula One great Kimi Räikkönen reportedly won’t be returning to drive for the prancing horse next season, and Ferrari will instead bring in Charles Leclerc – a 20-year-old rookie who currently drives for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team – to compete alongside four-time champ Sebastian Vettel. According to Express, Räikkönen was informed after his second-place finish at the 2018 Italian Grand Prix last weekend that Ferrari would not extend his contract, and the driver – currently the oldest man on the grid at 38 – is now considering retiring from F1.
Kimi Räikkönen landed in pole position for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this year, narrowly edging out teammate Sebastian Vettel while the two Mercedes-AMG F1 drivers started from third and fourth. Ultimately, though, it wasn’t Räikkönen’s driving that cost him the win and allowed Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to amass an even greater championship points lead over Vettel. Rather, it was Ferrari’s questionable pit strategy, which saw Räikkönen run short on usable grip in the later stages of the race as his tires, several laps older than Hamilton’s, developed blisters.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t also point out that Vettel had an even more embarrassing gaffe last weekend, colliding with Hamilton on the first lap of the Italian Grand Prix and spinning off-track, ending up at the back of the pack. Through the race, he eventually fought his way up to finish fifth, although his official placement was fourth after third-place finisher Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) was handed a five-second penalty for contacting Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes-AMG).
Regardless, Kimi Räikkönen has had a very long win-less streak, and rumors about his removal from Scuderia Ferrari began circulating early on in the 2018 season. Charles Leclerc might represent exactly the sort of young, exuberant, talented driver that the team feels it needs. So far this season, he’s scored points in five different races, outshining his teammate Marcus Ericcson by finishing as high as sixth place at Azerbaijan.