Daniel Ricciardo’s defection to Renault next season after a decade with Red Bull has grabbed a lot of headlines as Formula One heads for the off-season – but there is another big story concerning a driver heading for pastures new, or rather old.
Kimi Raikkonen‘s reunion with Sauber is one of the most anticipated storylines ahead of the 2019 season.
The flying Finn, 39, is leaving Ferrari after eight years – spread over two stints – and heads back to where it all began for him in F1.
Raikkonen finished 10th with Red Bull Sauber Petronas as a starry-eyed 22-year-old rookie in 2001, carrying only 23 car races under his belt, before moving on to McLaren the following year.
And the Iceman will get his first taste of life back at the Swiss team a little earlier than expected with team principal Frederic Vasseur confirming Raikkonen will be in the car at next week’s Abu Dhabi Pirelli tyre test.
After five successive seasons with Ferrari, Raikkonen is getting off the Prancing Horse and returning to the team that gave him his debut.
Next week’s two-day Pirelli test provides teams with an opportunity to run in-coming drivers, with McLaren taking the chance to run Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, while Williams will test out new duo Robert Kubica and George Russell.
Sauber have followed suit, with Raikkonen getting one day in the car – but Ferrari have yet to confirm whether Charles Leclerc (who is moving in the other direction) will get a chance to drive the SF71H.
Raikkonen is looking forward to getting started with his new team, which he joins on a two-year contract.
“I’m pretty sure it’s a much smaller team than where I’ve been now, at Ferrari, but I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s going to be different in many ways but the aim is still the same: Do well in the races.
“It’s more pure racing and less the other stuff in there. Hopefully it will turn out to be good for both of us and that’s our aim. I think it’s what we can do, but obviously I might be completely wrong, but we’ll find out.
“I have a good feeling about it and I’m excited to go there. But it’s close to my home which is obviously a bonus.”
Red Bull have yet to confirm whether incoming Pierre Gasly – who replaces Ricciardo – will drive for them at Yas Marina next week, but team boss Christian Horner has stated that the outgoing Australian will not be released from his contract early to link up with his new team.
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