Kimi Raikkonen‘s expected departure from Ferrari was announced yesterday – but it was not followed by a decision to retire. Instead, the 38-year-old will continue his Formula One career with two seasons back at the team where it all started, Sauber.
Kimi will swap seats with highly-rated young driver Charles Leclerc, who will take Ferrari’s second seat alongside Sebastian Vettel for the Scuderia in just his second season in the sport.
And the popular Finn’s decision to remain on the grid will not only delight his huge fan base but put him in position to set an incredible pair of records. Kimi Raikkonen is currently fifth on the list for most all-time race entries with 287, and also most race starts with 285. Fernando Alonso is the only other current driver ahead of Kimi and is 20 ahead in both categories, but the Spaniard is retiring from F1 when he leaves McLaren in November.
By that time, provided he starts in the final seven races of the season, Alonso will finish on 312 grands prix entered – taking him past Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher and former British world champion Jenson Button on 308 and 309. And while Alonso could yet return if McLaren should enjoy significant improvement and enter the group of championship challengers in the future, he will spend at least a year out. With the 2019 season containing a 21-race calendar again, Kimi is expected to overtake Alonso, Schumacher and Button for entries and starts.
With Raikkonen contracted to Sauber for at least two years, he is highly likely to not only overtake Alonso and co. but also long-serving Brazilian Rubens Barrichello. Barrichello – himself a former Ferrari driver – leads the way for most entries with 326, having too made an unmatched 322 race starts. Kimi has seven more races this year with Ferrari, including this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix where he will hope to add to his 100 podium finishes, to take his total number of race entries to 294. And with 21 races in 2019 and potentially even more in 2020 with Copenhagen and Miami eyed as possible new venues for races, Raikkonen could surpass Barrichello in both respects to set new records for most entries and starts.
The 2007 Formula One world champion holds several records already including the fastest lap ever recorded in the sport’s history, set earlier this month at the Italian Grand Prix. The much-loved ‘Ice Man’ became the oldest pole-sitter since Nigel Mansell in 1994 at Monza with an astonishing 1m 19.119s lap to set a new benchmark.
Kimi Raikkonen will discuss his decision in greater detail at the pre-Singapore drivers’ press conference on Thursday.