Scuderia Ferrari picked 20-year-old Charles Leclerc to replace former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, the racing team said in a statement on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old Finn, popularly known as the “Iceman,” plans to join Sauber F1 for the next two years, he said in an Instagram post, marking a return to the team he started his Formula 1 career with in 2001. Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of the 2018 season.
Leclerc made his Formula 1 debut with the Sauber team earlier this year, and will drive for Ferrari for the 2019 season.
Amid speculation on Raikkonen’s future with Ferrari, more than 87,000 racing fans signed an online petition asking the team to extend his contract for another year. The Finn remains Ferrari’s last world champion after he won the title in 2007 in his first year with them.
Raikkonen recorded his 100th Formula 1 podium finish at the Italian Grand Prix on September 2 when he came in second. He is currently third in the driver’s championship, 62 points behind teammate Sebastian Vettel, whose contract with Ferrari was extended until 2020 last year
Sergio: “I am really looking forward to racing this weekend. The last couple of events went really well for us and you can feel the positive atmosphere in the whole team, so we want to keep the momentum going.
“Singapore is a special event and I don’t think there’s any other race in the world like it. The city is buzzing and the circuit looks amazing when all the lights are on. The hotel is close to the paddock, so we walk to the track and that’s a way to see the city and feel the atmosphere – something you can’t really do at other races.
“The race is a big test for the body. When you’re in the car, it is hard to breathe and you’re sweating a lot. In the days leading up to the race I train in the toughest conditions I can to get used to it. The race is also the longest of the year in terms of time in the cockpit, so fitness is important. The best preparation is to sleep well and keep hydrated. The weird schedule makes it a bit strange, especially at the beginning of the week, but after a couple of days in Singapore it’s not a problem anymore.
“The Marina Bay Circuit is one of my favourites because I have scored points every time I’ve raced there. That’s seven times from seven races and I’m looking forward to making it eight out of eight. I love driving street circuits because you have to be aggressive and accurate, and Marina Bay is the type of track where you can make a difference as a driver.
“Being so close to the walls is always challenging but it’s fun as well. With the wide cars it’s tougher to overtake, but is not as tight as Monaco and there is enough space to make some overtaking moves.
“We’re bringing an upgrade to the race, so I expect us to be competitive. Last year I finished fifth and after the breakthrough we had at Spa and Monza, I definitely expect to be fighting for a good amount of points this time as well.”
Esteban: “In the two races after the summer break we have shown good pace and scored a lot of points, so we go to Singapore aiming to continue this run of great races.
“Singapore is the toughest race of the year from a physical point of view. It’s hot and it’s humid, but I have been preparing for it with lots of cardio training. It’s important to eat the right things and drink a lot even before we travel to Singapore. Other than training in the heat, my routine doesn’t change much because we have to be very fit for all the other races already.
“This Singapore weekend has a unique schedule but I have a little trick for it. I always keep two different time zones on my watch – local and European. I keep to European timings and still manage to go to bed every night at 9pm, Paris time!
“The Singapore race is a fantastic event. Night races are always different and there is the added challenge of a street circuit. I admit I am not the biggest fan of the track layout, but it is a very challenging one. There are so many corners and lots of places where you can gain time or make a mistake, so it’s difficult to put together a perfect lap. My favourite part is the final sector where you have to get really close to the walls.
“We are bringing an upgrade to this race and we look forward to testing it on Friday. If we can get everything working properly then hopefully we can keep our position at the front of the midfield.”