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What next for Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen?

Ferrari were once again off the pace. (GEPA pictures/Red Bull Content Pool)
Roar Guru
23rd July, 2018
2

Sebastian Vettel threw away victory at the German Grand Prix, yet the events which took place away from the circuit have potentially greater implications for Ferrari moving forwards.

Sergio Marchionne’s abrupt removal from his Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ferrari CEO and chairman posts due to ill health following surgery complications caught many off guard and comes at a delicate time as the team decides whether to embrace the future or remain with the status quo.

The most competitive it has been in a decade, Ferrari was on course to extend its grasp on both the drivers and the constructors standings until Vettel’s self-inflicted retirement while leading at Hockenheim, though it can’t allow this nor the upheaval at board level undermine its campaign.

As much as Vettel represents Ferrari’s current charge, Charles Leclerc is its next great hope. Even so, Marchionne’s incoming successor as CEO of the Italian manufacturer, Louis Camilleri, is a known fan of team principal Maurizio Arrivabene from the pair’s days as colleagues at Philip Morris, and Marchionne in turn favours retaining Kimi Raikkonen’s services for at least another year.

On the surface the Finn has made a compelling case for his retention with seven podiums from 11 starts this season to lie third in the standings. He is as competitive as he has been at any point in his second tenure at Maranello.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen celebrates on the podium at the 2018 French Grand Prix.

(Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

But Leclerc’s rapid development curve in his rookie campaign at Sauber suggests he’s a generational talent equipped to assume the responsibilities associated with carrying the hopes of a nation.

A source of frustration has been Raikkonen’s inability to win a race when the rare opportunity has arisen, a case in point being last weekend in lieu of his teammate, with Mercedes instead claiming a highly improbable one-two finish.

As much as the 2007 world champion’s charisma adds to Formula One – and, on a personal level, the experience as a fan – one train of thought is that if he isn’t afforded the chance to compete for victories, having unsurprisingly been forced to move aside for Vettel prior to the German’s brain fade on Sunday, which arguably proved the difference between first and third following the safety car’s intervention, then he’s wasting his time.

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There is speculation that he could be an option for Haas, but there’s also increased attention on the intriguing proposition of Raikkonen taking up a berth at Sauber, the team he debuted for in 2001 and which is resurgent on the back of Leclerc’s heroics.

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Each outfit’s Ferrari ties would keep him in the family, yet a more logical outcome would be to deploy the Monegasque to the American outfit, having established its own genuine credentials in recent races, while Raikkonen dons the red overalls for a farewell tour in 2019.

Failing this, the 38-year-old would be better served riding into the sunset on the back of memorable performances this season, while any victory – as elusive as it has thus far proven – would be a neat way to sign off.

These decisions are secondary to the title bid, which fell off the wheels at a similar time in 2017. It can be argued that if the current setup is delivering, there is no need to change when stability has finally been attained, though Ferrari equally can’t allow what is easier to dictate its future trajectory.

For the first time in the hybrid era Ferrari boasts a package that is the outright class of the field rather than relying on opportunism. It didn’t work out at Hockenheim, but there’s no reason it won’t next time, so it’d be tragic if it were to squander the hard-fought initiative due to circumstance.

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