Kimi Raikkonen expressed his love for Ferrari on Wednesday after the Formula One team said the Finn would be staying with them next year in an unchanged lineup with Germany’s Sebastian Vettel.
“What can I say?” the 35-year-old told the team’s Web site after an announcement that caught the sport off guard. “For me, to be able to stay another year at Ferrari means that the dream goes on.”
“The Scuderia [team] is my family, as I always said, it’s here I want to end my career,” Raikkonen said. “I am more committed than ever and I want to say thank you to the people who gave me this chance.”
Raikkonen was out of contract at the end of this year and facing an uncertain future, with media speculation already focusing on who might replace the “Iceman” at one of the most coveted seats on the starting grid.
Instead, a short statement from Maranello forced a rethink.
“Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” the team said as the paddock regrouped for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. “The driver lineup next season will still consist of the Finnish driver and Sebastian Vettel.”
Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion who returned to Ferrari last year, had always made clear he wanted to stay, but team principal Maurizio Arrivabene had been keeping his options open about one of the sport’s highest-paid drivers.
“We believe that extending Kimi’s contract into the next season will provide further stability to the team,” Arrivabene said, well aware that an announcement now will relieve Ferrari of unwanted hassle at next month’s Italian Grand Prix.
“This [stability] 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,” Arrivabene said.
Had Raikkonen been dropped, it would have triggered a driver merry-go-round, as well as the likely farewell of one of Formula One’s most popular, if least talkative, drivers.
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