Arrivederci to Raikkonen as Ferrari opt for Bottas
Williams driver Valtteri Bottas has reportedly signed and sealed a deal with Ferrari to replace Finnish countryman Kimi Raikkonen from 2016 onward.
That is the assertion of well connected and influential Corriere dello Sport, adding that the Maranello team will therefore not exercise the 2016 ‘option’ on Raikkonen’s existing contract.
The option with Raikkonen does not expire until 31 July, and so there will be no official confirmation of the Bottas deal “at least until that date”, the newspaper said.
The report revealed that Ferrari reached an agreement with Bottas’ current team Williams, who had a firm option on the 25-year-old’s services for next year.
Corriere dello Sport said the deal, brokered by Bottas’ experienced manager Didier Coton, amounts to some €12 million.
Correspondent Fulvio Solms backs the decision to oust Raikkonen and wrote, “Kimi did not fit with the last two Ferrari cars. He did not fit with the new team management. Sometimes he seems not to fit even with himself.”
Raikkonen has been on the podium only once in the 28 races he has contested since his return to the Maranello outfit, in that period his respective teammates have been on the podium eight times.
This year the veteran Finn, who became a father recently, has also been increasingly moody and unapproachable as his form has failed him, while driver errors have not helped his cause.
After a below par British Grand Prix for Raikkonen, team boss Maurizio Arrivabene said, “I do not want to talk about Kimi’s future. There are still ten races to go and when the time comes, we will make a decision if we have to.
“Kimi knows what we expect of him. At the same time everybody has been talking about this since Bahrain, which is not good in terms of the pressure on him,” added Arrivabene.
Opinions are divided regarding the course of action that Ferrari should take with Raikkonen being voted the sport’s most popular driver in a recent GPDA fan survey.
While current teammate Sebastian Vettel is in favour of keeping the current driver line-up, the German told Autosprint, “My contract lasts longer than his [Raikkonen] but if he does continue with us next year it would be a good thing. We work well together and I think the team knows it.”
Raikkonen remains the last Ferrari driver to lift the Formula 1 title when he did so in 2007, and sources close to him suggest that if he is axed by Ferrari he will walk away from racing.
“I have no idea what will happen with Ferrari or what my life could be like [afterwards],” he told Bild am Sonntag during the British Grand Prix. “It was the same six years ago when I stopped for the first time.”
“I could be here or I could be at home. I have basically been travelling around my whole life so it [staying home] might be nice,” Raikkonen added.
Meanwhile Bottas has been talking like someone who is on his way out at Williams, but at the same time is keen not to burn bridges with the team that gave him his break and where his personal manager Toto Wolff still has influence.
Bottas said last week, “Of course. I think all my life I will be really grateful to Williams that I got the opportunity to go into Formula 1, first as a test driver then as race driver. So for sure I will be forever very thankful.”