Scuderia Ferrari has re-signed Kimi Räikkönen to its driving roster for the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship season, ending speculation over the Finn’s future in the sport.
In a two-sentence long statement issued by the Maranello outfit – which contained no quotes from Räikkönen or team leadership – they confirmed it has “renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Räikkönen … [who] will therefore race for the Maranello team in the 2018 Formula One World Championship”.
The deal will see the Finn compete in a fifth consecutive season for the Italian manufacturer, after previously racing for them in 2007-2009 and winning the World Championship in his first year there.
There is no word yet on teammate Sebastian Vettel’s new deal but with this announcement it is almost certain he too will stay. The German has favoured Räikkönen as his teammate since joining Ferrari in 2015 and is in the final season of an initial three-year contract.
The announcement comes despite Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne last month describing the Finn as “laggard”. He has not won a race during his current stint with Ferrari; his last victory for them was the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix.
Although his performance over the last four seasons has been lacking the fire and hunger he exuded in the 2000s, Räikkönen occasionally still exhibits the technical mastery that won him his crown and, more importantly for Ferrari, he plays the support role well for his teammate and current World Championship leader.
Critically, however, Räikkönen lags a mammoth 86 points adrift of Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship standings heading into this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, contributing to Ferrari’s 39-point deficit to rivals Mercedes in the Constructors’ standings.
It is apparent the 37-year-old’s contract extension is to satisfy the German as the team again opts for a solid supporting driver rather than investing in new talent for the future. Ferrari has two potential Formula 1 graduates in the form of runaway Formula 2 Championship leader Charles Leclerc and former GP2 Series race-winner Antonio Giovinazzi, who deputised at Sauber for the injured Pascal Wehrlein in the opening two Grands Prix of the season.
Stability may serve Ferrari well in the short-term but if the team wants to expand on their proud history of Constructors’ Championships then they need to change their thinking and start planning beyond the next 12 months – whether their number one driver likes his teammate or not.
Image via Scuderia Ferrari