Next year could be Kimi Räikkönen’s final season at Ferrari if the team cannot get consistently good performance from him, says the company’s president Sergio Marchionne.
At 38, Räikkönen is the oldest driver on the current grid. The Iceman returned to the Italian squad in 2014 and has not won a single race since then. In his first stint at Ferrari, Räikkönen partnered up with Fernando Alonso, and now he is teamed up with Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel has won 5 races in the last three seasons and finished second in the driver’s standings this year while Räikkönen came fourth.
Räikkönen got a one-year extension on his contract, which means he will drive for Scuderia until the end of 2018. If the Finnish driver does not find his championship form again, there are very few chances of him racing for the Italian outfit in 2019, Marchionne added.
Marchionne said that sometimes he feels like Räikkönen was “taking a break” during the season.
Talking during Ferrari’s traditional pre-Christmas media dinner, Marchionne said: “My personal opinion is that if we find the right key, Räikkönen drives like a God,”
“But we need to find it.
“When things go right, it’s a pleasure to see him driving. He has an incredible coldness. Otherwise, in other moments it seems like he takes a break.
“He needs more consistency in terms of performance, but it’s important to find the right key to make him driving like in Monaco also on other circuits.
“Probably this is the last season to find the right key, and we must do it. I think that would be a shame if he would leave F1 without showing his real potential.”
In case the outfit decides to replace the Finnish driver, they would opt for a younger driver like F2 champion Charles Leclerc for 2018, Marchionne said.
“We see Leclerc, [Max] Verstappen and [Antonio] Giovinazzi, drivers with great skills, who can deliver a big change in the driver market,” Marchionne said. “I’m still happy to have chosen Leclerc.
“I think that if we can not find the right key for Raikkonen, the choice will fall on a young driver.”
Marchionne insists that Vettel must learn from his mistakes in 2017 and has a responsibility to improve on those. Vettel’s anger is not a weakness and now that the team is given him a championship worthy car, he has to do his best to win, he added.
“I don’t know if it’s a problem of weakness or personality,” he added. “I don’t see weakness in his anger expressions. Vettel has something like a guy from the south of Italy.
“He showed that a couple of time this year, but I think that he learned from these situations.
“I continue to say that we have the obligation to give our drivers a car that allows them to fight for victory: in 2016 we didn’t succeed, but in 2017 we gave them a great car.
“From now, he has his own responsibility, but he knows it.”