Ferrari is ready to replace Kimi Raikkonen with rising star Charles Leclerc in its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2019, according to multiple sources. Kimi, who turns 39 in October, earned a one-year contract extension with the Italian team last year, as now the choice will be between the Finnish driver, who is still Ferrari’s most recent world champion but is yet to win a race since rejoining the team in 2014, and Charles Leclerc, who is contesting his rookie F1 season with Sauber.
Formula One is enjoying a boom in young talent. Drivers such as Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, all in their early 20s and the formative stages of their careers, are poised to become the new stars. Yet it is the oldest man on the grid, Kimi Raikkonen, 38, of Finland, who continues to stand out as one of Formula One’s most interesting drivers, breaking with convention through his character and demeanor.
Even with the wave of junior drivers, children of the internet age more suited to understand and capture a young fan base, Raikkonen, who is very private, created a social media presence only last December and has already become the fifth most-followed Formula One driver on Instagram. He is one of Formula One’s best-loved figures.
Kimi Raikkonen, may be successful, winning 20 Formula One races in his career and the world championship in 2007, but it is his personality that has made him so popular. The Finn has become notorious in Formula One for his dislike of the many ancillary activities, such as media duties and sponsor commitments; his blunt responses to questions, often delivered in a monotone; and his abrupt comments to his team on the car radio.
A 2017 fan survey ranked him as Formula One’s third most popular driver, trailing the world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. It comes as no surprise that fans want Kimi to stay at Ferrari and have started a petition asking the Maranello team to keep the Finnish driver for at least one more season. Just a few hours after it had been launched, almost 400 people signed the petition, which echoes the social media hype regarding fans’ to see Kimi driving for Ferrari in 2019.