Ferrari will retain Räikkönen for 2016
Stability is key at the Scuderia as they focus on their car
Kimi Räikkönen’s Formula 1 career has been extended by at least one more year after Ferrari decided to keep him alongside Sebastian Vettel for the 2016 season.
The decision came after lengthy deliberation over whether they should drop him due to inconsistent performances. Ferrari entered 2015 intending to take up their option on Räikkönen provided he could recover his lost form after a poor 2014 in which he was comprehensively outperformed by team-mate Fernando Alonso.
The early signs this season were good. Räikkönen, who nds it harder than Alonso to adapt to a car that does not suit him, has been much happier with the handling of the 2015 Ferrari. He performed strongly in the rst four races of the season, nishing a close second to Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain.
Rocky performances in the next few races put his position in doubt. His qualifying form dipped and there were errors in races, including a spin that cost him third place in Canada and a rst-lap collision with Alonso in Austria. This prompted Ferrari to issue a public warning to Räikkönen to up his game, with chairman Sergio Marchionne saying that Räikkönen’s future was “in his own hands”.
The team began to consider Daniel Ricciardo as their preferred replacement. However, extracting Ricciardo from a Red Bull contract that runs to the end of 2018 would have proved prohibitively expensive. Their second choice was Williams racer Valtteri Bottas. Like Ricciardo, he was under contract, but unlike Red Bull, Williams were willing to sell. Ferrari opened discussions with Williams, but it became evident that freeing up Bottas would cost over $10m. They then noted that 25-yearold Bottas was not performing as well against team-mate Felipe Massa as he had in 2014.
With Sebastian Vettel making it clear he was happy with Räikkönen as a team-mate, Ferrari decided stability was best at a time when their focus is on improving their car to a level where they can compete consistently with Mercedes.
Räikkönen said: “I’m very pleased that we can be working together next year again. I really feel that we are going in the right direction and we can do great things in the future.”
Williams are now almost certain to keep hold of Bottas and Massa for a third season.