This afternoon the Ferrari team has ended the speculation surrounding the future of Kimi Raikkonen by confirming it has retained his services for the 2016 Formula 1 season.
A host of names have been linked with the seat over the past few months, most notably Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg at Force India and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
But the Scuderia has decided to take up the option on Raikkonen’s contract for next season and the 2007 world champion will again partner Sebastian Vettel. In an interview with the media this afternoon, Raikkonen has stated that he is happy to remain with the team and more determined to repay the faith that the team have shown in him. Raikkonen stated the following:-
‘What can I say. For me, to be able to stay another year at Ferrari means that the dream goes on. The Scuderia is my family, as I always said, it’s here I want to end my career. I am more committed than ever and I want to say thank you to the people who gave me this chance. Also, a big thank you goes to all my Ferrari fans, for their continuous support.’
It is clear that Raikkonen is delighted to remain with the Ferrari team who he wants to end his Formula One career with; in the family environment that is within the team at this present moment. For him to say thank you to the team and also his fans is great to see and this will have only cemented his determination to keep pushing for the best possible results on the track.
In his own interview with the media this afternoon, Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene added the following on resigning Raikkonen to the team for next season as follows:-
‘We believe that extending Kimi’s contract into the next season will provide further stability to the team. This has been our guideline, also considering the very good relationship between Kimi and Seb. On our side, this shows our great confidence in him, and I expect this confidence to be well rewarded.’
If you read between the lines of what Arrivabene has stated today in his interview with the media this afternoon, it is clear that they feel this is the correct decision for the team at the moment and provides them with stability going into next season with regards to their driver line up.
But as Arrivabene has said today by resigning Raikkonen for next season; they expect him to deliver on the track while also ensuring that they take the steps needed for him to help repay the confidence that they have shown in him. Because let’s face it he has been outperformed by Vettel in the wake of the four-times title holder’s arrival from Red Bull at the start of this season.
While his team mate Vettel has won two grands prix, in Malaysia and in Hungary; (as well as stepping on to the podium on five other occasions), Raikkonen has made some mistakes in the first half of the season. This has been mainly in qualifying, leading to him claiming a sole podium place by finishing second in Bahrain.
At this present time, Vettel has scored more than double the number of Raikkonen’s points total – 160 to 76 and that just leaves its mark really on how much he has underperformed this season already.
But it is clear for all to see that by Ferrari and Raikkonen teaming up again for next season, it is the first major move in the driver market from which there will now likely be a knock-on effect. The most significant in my opinion will be that Bottas who was tipped as Raikkonen’s likely replacement, will be expected to remain with Williams for next year and could be in with a shout of getting Raikkonen’s drive in 2017 if Bottas continues on the path that he is now.
Overall, I believe that Ferrari have made the right choice in resigning him for the 2016; but it is clear that this is last chance to show the driver that he know he is capable of being. He is a world champion of the sport in own right and has shown in the last few years with Lotus that when everything is right for him, he can deliver just as well as any other driver on the grid today.
It is imperative that Raikkonen grasps this chance that Ferrari have given him and ensure that he does everything in his power to remind the team and the paddock of his natural speed and ability in a F1 car before he is asked to leave the sport he loves and that could be as early as next year and if he’s not careful it could just happen to him and it would be a shame to lose him from F1.