Ferrari has confirmed that Charles Leclerc will replace Kimi Raikkonen and race for the team alongside Sebastian Vettel in 2019.
Raikkonen originally joined Ferrari in 2007 and duly won the drivers’ championship that first season with a dramatic victory against Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the title decider in Brazil. After two less successful years, Raikkonen then left the team before the end of his contract to make way for Alonso, going on to compete in rallying and NASCAR among other series.
After two years away, Raikkonen returned to F1 in 2012 with Lotus and won two races before moving back to Ferrari in 2014, initially alongside Alonso and then as teammate to Vettel.
The 38-year-old has signed a number of one-year contract extensions but this year the emergence of Ferrari youngster Leclerc at Sauber saw former president Sergio Marchionne line up the rookie to step up in 2019. There was some doubt about that plan following Marchionne’s death in July, but Ferrari has now confirmed it will replace Raikkonen with the 20-year-old Monegasque driver.
“Scuderia Ferrari announces that in the next Formula 1 racing season, Charles Leclerc will drive for the Team alongside Sebastian Vettel,” a short team statement read.
Leclerc dominated last year’s Formula 2 championship in his rookie year in the category, and this year has impressed with five point-scoring finishes for Sauber, including sixth place in Azerbaijan.
After his departure from Ferrari was confirmed, Raikkonen immediately announced he will rejoin his former team Sauber on a two-year deal. With the two drivers essentially swapping seats, Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur also praised Leclerc for his progress.
“It has been a great pleasure to support Charles Leclerc in his rookie year in Formula 1,” Vasseur said. “Since his arrival, he has given the team great motivation. We have constantly improved and we will work hard until the end of this season to achieve the best possible results together. We are aware of Charles’ talent and are confident that he will have a bright future. We will keep on following him closely and we wish him the best on his path.”