Charles Leclerc is set to be announced as a Ferrari driver this week, RACER understands, replacing Kimi Raikkonen in 2019.
The Monaco driver has impressed in his rookie season for Sauber this year, scoring points on five occasions and picking up 13 points so far. A member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Leclerc has been earmarked as a future Ferrari driver for a number of years, and was linked with the step up earlier this year.
Those plans were thrown into doubt by the death of Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne in July, but the new leadership has opted to follow Marchionne’s original planning and numerous sources have indicated to RACER that Leclerc will be confirmed as Raikkonen’s replacement later this week.
The confirmation is due to come following a disappointing Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari, where a front-row lockout was not converted into victory as Raikkonen finished second and Sebastian Vettel had to recover from the back of the field to fourth after an incident with eventual winner Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap.
Raikkonen was in talks with McLaren about a possible return to Woking at one stage this summer, but has seen that option disappear at the start of this week with confirmation that Lando Norris will partner Carlos Sainz next year.
Leclerc’s expected promotion is likely to mean the end of Raikkonen’s Formula 1 career, with seats at Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber all that are yet to be confirmed. However, Italian Antonio Giovinazzi is expected to replace Leclerc, while Force India is currently set to pair Sergio Perez with Lance Stroll in 2019.