London, July 8 (IANS) The 2007 Formula One World champion Kimi Raikkonen has been retained by Ferrari for the 2017 season, it was announced on Friday.
He will stay on as Sebastian Vettel’s team-mate for a third season. The unexpected announcement is likely to have significant repercussions for the rest of the driver market.
In-form Force India driver Sergio Perez, Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Haas’ Romain Grosjean had all been identified as potential replacements for Raikkonen, whose deal with Ferrari was due to expire at the end of 2016, reports Sky Sports.
“Ferrari announces that it has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” Ferrari announced ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
“The driver line-up for the 2017 racing season will still consist of the Finnish driver and Sebastian Vettel.”
After finishing third in last week’s Austrian GP, Raikkonen is currently third in the Drivers’ Championship, level on points with Vettel.
“I would not be here if I did not enjoy it or if I did not feel like I can drive, if I did not feel like I can do it 100 per cent,” Raikkonen said at Silverstone.
“It hasn’t changed. I feel I drive as well as I’ve driven for ever. If I didn’t feel like I’m driving well, I’m the first one to go away and not do it. If I wouldn’t be motivated, I would not be here wasting my own time or the team’s time.”
Raikkonen is in his second stint at Ferrari after winning the 2007 Drivers’ World Championship during his first spell with the team. He left the team, and Formula 1, in 2009 but after two years of rallying he returned with Lotus for the 2012 campaign and then re-joined Ferrari in 2014.
Vettel’s existing contract also runs to the end of next season, although the German is thought to be in the process of negotiating an extension beyond 2017.