Tongues are wagging in the paddock at the arrival of the F1 circus for the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa, and the Italian media buzzing with the news that they’re reporting in their media regarding Kimi’s new contract and a possible move for Leclerc to Haas.
There is some precedence for Kimi’s announcement to occur around the Belgium Grand Prix for this was the period in time when his contract extension was agreed last year.
The Italian media is convinced that Ferrari that history will repeat itself and this weekend Raikkonen will remain at Ferrari for another single year contract extension.
Further, Leclerc is reportedly being readied to make a move from Sauber to Haas in an effort to allow a smooth transition to the main Ferrari team in 2020.
Teaming up with Kevin Magnussen, and replacing the ill fated Romain Grosjean, who you could now consider a bit of an F1 veteran, is considered the best conditioning to becoming the eventual team mate of Vettel.
It is believed that Antonio Giovinazzi, the youngster in the Ferrari program, will take Leclerc’s seat at Sauber.
Perhaps this move would actually make better sense for the young Leclerc as the step up to Haas will allow him to mature before Ferrari, but also Ferrari can better assess the Monegasque’s abilities against a proven driver in Magnussen.
Leclerc had an almost guaranteed place in Ferrari for 2019 until Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne passed away suddenly last month. Ardent champion of Leclerc, he had plans to put him up against Vettel as soon as possible and a preliminary contract discussion and signature had taken place.
Now a more cautious boss of Ferrari in John Elkann, the grandson of former Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, who replaced Marchionne as FCA Chairman of Ferrari, prefers stability and certainly see’s that in Kimi.
Of course, Kimi’s results in 2018 had also been impressive with pace similar to that of Vettel and being placed third in the drivers championship helps also.
F1’s famous ‘rent a quote’ standing in for Niki Lauda (as he recovers from his lung transplant), Jaques Villeneuve thinks Leclerc would be ‘eaten alive’ by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had the move happened.
“Put a young ‘cub’ next to Vettel and what will Vettel do?
“He’ll try to eat him alive. Either he will destroy the young cub or it will end in tears and the whole team will end up going slower within two years. That’s not constructive.”
Furthermore Villeneuve thinks Raikkonen is a far better bet for Ferrari in 2019 saying:
“Look at the work [Kimi’s] been doing,
“He’s third in the championship, he’s often quicker than Vettel and when he’s not he’s just a tenth behind.
“He’s paramount in the development of the car. The whole team works fantastically well now.”
Villeneuve is also surprised how Kimi has seemingly got quicker despite having a child, usually the opposite occurs.
“People always said that a child makes you slower by a second per lap.
” But with Kimi I have the impression that he is winning as a man through his fatherhood, by becoming a father. Maybe he’s finally found a real meaning in life, apart from the racing.”
When Raikkonen is officially confirmed is unclear. It can happen this weekend in the during the Belgium GP or a few days later in Monza.
Allegedly, it’s just about details.
Historically Raikkonen has performed well at Spa, so perhaps should he win, and the media attention is with him, Ferrari might decide to announce straight away.