Kimi Raikkonen: Former world champion to leave Ferrari

CNN  — 

Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of the season after a five-year stint with the Formula One team, the Italian outfit announced Tuesday.

Sauber driver Charles Leclerc, 20 – widely considered one of the brightest young talents in F1 – will replace Raikkonen as the pair swap places, with the 38-year-old Finn signing a two-year deal with the Swiss team for whom he made his F1 debut in 2001.

Leclerc has earned five top 10 finishes in his debut season, including a career-best sixth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In total, the Monégasque has racked up 13 points in 14 races in 2018 to record one of the best seasons of any Sauber driver in recent years.

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SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 21: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari takes part in the drivers' parade before the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 21, 2014 in Singapore, Singapore. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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‘Guess who’s back?’

Raikkonen, who has been behind Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari pecking order in recent seasons, is the last person to win the world title for Ferrari, back in 2007.

He is currently third in the drivers’ championship on 164 points, most recently finishing second at the Italian Grand Prix after securing his first pole position since Monaco last year.

In a statement on its official website, Ferrari said: “During these years, Kimi’s contribution to the team, both as a driver and on account of his human qualities, has been fundamental. He played a decisive role in the team’s growth and was, at the same time, always a great team player.

“As a world champion for Scuderia Ferrari, he will always be part of the team’s history and family. We thank Kimi for all of this and wish him and his family a prosperous future.”

After his world title triumph in 2007, Raikkonen took a two-year break from the sport to compete in the World Rally Championship before returning to F1 with Lotus in 2012 and rejoining Ferrari in 2014.

In his two stints with Ferrari, Raikkonen has earned nine race wins and started from pole on seven occasions. His last victory for the team came in Belgium in 2009.

On confirming his move to Sauber next year, Raikkonen posted on Instagram: “Guess who’s back?! Next two years with @sauberf1team ahead! Feels extremely good to go back where it all began!”

‘Dreams do come true’

Monaco-born Leclerc paid tribute to his late father and his friend Jules Bianchi, who died three years ago after a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014.

“Dreams do come true. I will be eternally grateful to Ferrari for the opportunity given,” he said on Twitter.

“To a person that is not part of this world anymore but to whom I owe everything of what is happening to me, Papa. To Jules, thank you for all the things you learnt me, we will never forget you, and to all the persons that supported me and believed in me.

“I will work harder than ever to not disappoint you. But first, there is a season to finish with an amazing team that gave me the opportunity to fight and show my potential.”