Kimi Räikkönen will return to his roots and race for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team in 2019 after being dropped by Scuderia Ferrari.
The Finn made his Grand Prix racing debut with the team as a 20-year-old in 2001 with just 23 car races to his credit. Despite reservations among a number of quarters, he was granted a Superlicense by the FIA and defied his critics by finishing in sixth place in his first race in Australia. He achieved three further points’ finishes that year and helped the Sauber team to its best ever finish in the Constructors’ Championship that year.
Räikkönen announced his return to Sauber via his Instagram feed, confirming he will join the Swiss outfit on a two-year deal.
Although the 2007 World Champion has not won a race since 2013, his signing marks a major coup for Sauber.
The team has been in a rebuilding phase amid a change of ownership, making steady progress to return as a credible midfield performer this year.
“Signing Kimi Räikkönen 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,” said team principal Frederic Vasseur.
“Kimi’s undoubted talent and immense experience in Formula 1 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.”
Sauber’s improvement to become a consistent points-scoring team has served as a platform for Charles Leclerc’s impressive rookie season, earning the 20-year-old Monégasque driver a graduation to Ferrari – although his appointment is yet to be confirmed.
Räikkönen’s appointment to Sauber will put major pressure on Leclerc’s current teammate Marcus Ericsson to retain his seat. While the Swedish driver has scored points and is favoured by the team’s consortium of Swedish owners, he has been comprehensively outperformed by Leclerc.
Another contender for the second Sauber seat is Ferrari test driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who has had a number of Friday practice session outings with the Hinwil squad this season.
Image via LAT