Ferrari sign rookie Leclerc, Raikkonen shifts to Sauber

Milan: Young Monaco driver Charles Leclerc will replace Finnish veteran Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari next season with the former World Champion returning to Sauber, both Formula One (F1) teams announced, Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Leclerc – a Ferrari Driver Academy graduate – was the 2017 Formula 2 champion, and made his debut in F1 this season with the Sauber team.

“Scuderia Ferrari announces that, at the end of the 2018 season, Kimi Raikkonen will step down from his current role,” the team said in a statement. “.. in the next Formula One racing season, Charles Leclerc will drive for the team alongside Sebastian Vettel,” it added.

“Dreams do come true,” Leclerc posted on Twitter. “I’ll be driving for @Scuderia Ferrari for the 2019 Formula 1 World Championships.”

Leclerc has had a promising start to his rookie season, finishing sixth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. He has been nurtured by Ferrari for several years and is managed by Nicolas Todt, son of former Ferrari team principal and current FIA president Jean Todt.

The 38-year-old Raikkonen has started 287 Grands Prix, winning 20 since his debut in 2001 with Sauber.

Raikkonen achieved his 100th podium finish by finishing second at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza this month after claiming his 18th pole in style with F1’s all-time fastest lap.

Sauber later confirmed Raikkonen would return to the team he made his debut with in 2001. “The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team is delighted to announce that Kimi Raikkonen will join the team from 2019. The 2007 Formula One World Champion has signed for the next two seasons,” Sauber confirmed.

Raikkonen tweeted: “Guess who’s back?! Next two years with @sauber F1 team ahead! Feels extremely good to go back where it all began!”