Ferrari weighs the Leclerc question

Ferrari is seriously considering replacing Kimi Räikkönen with F1 rookie Charles Leclerc for next season, according to a news report by Motorsport.com.

The ‘Iceman’ is the oldest driver on the grid and will turn 39 this October. His latest contract ends at the close of the current season.

There have been signs about the impending change at Ferrari since last year. Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne had emphasised “probably this [2018] is the last season to find the right key” for the Finnish driver.

Räikkönen claimed three podium finishes in the first four races of the season and has been closing the gap with teammate Sebastian Vettel this year better than 2017.

But since the last two races, he has gone down in his performance while Vettel continued his upward movement.

For a while, Ferrari has been pondering on getting Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian is popular with the Italian media and the fans and there have been a lot of “bring him home” slogans in Italy.

But the Aussie’s asking price too high for the Italian outfit, especially considering the amount they are already paying Vettel.

So the Scuderia is left to choose between their last world champion Räikkönen, who has not won a race since 2014 or a budding rookie.

The 20-year-old Sauber driver has bested his more experienced teammate in the last four races and scored points in a car that is largely considered to be out of points range.

Although a final decision has not been taken, Ferrari is understood to be interested in promoting Leclerc.

Such a change in Ferrari would go against its traditional practice of signing drivers who have a proven track record. In this case, they would be replacing a driver with one world title, 277 races starts, of which 137 were with Ferrari, with a rookie having a total of seven race starts to date.

When Motorsports asked Räikkönen about his thoughts on the next season, the Finnish driver said his thinking is “not any different to one week, two weeks, a month ago”.

If Leclerc makes it to the race seat next year, he would be the first graduate of the Ferrari Driver Academy to get the honour.

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