Congratulations, fans of mumbling weirdo in Formula One: Kimi Räikkönen is staying at Ferrari, reports Racer. Ferrari announced hat they would be keeping the 2007 F1 world champion today, and while they didn’t expressly say that they would be keeping his teammate Sebastian Vettel, it’s a good hint that Vettel’s probably staying, too.
Four-time F1 world champion Vettel, of course, has been Ferrari’s standout driver as of late. He currently sits in first place in the world driver’s championship, which is exactly what Ferrari needs right now. Ferrari’s last F1 championship was the 2008 constructors championship. Going nearly a decade without another title is unacceptable for a name so synonymous with F1 that the sport’s governing body the FIA often gets accused of standing for “Ferrari International Assistance.”
Meanwhile, Räikkönen has been a solid back-up for Vettel this year, scoring points and podiums that Ferrari needs to contend for a constructors’ title. He currently sits fifth in the constructors’ championship, a mere 86 points behind Vettel, which ain’t bad at all. As Racer also notes, Räikkönen has also worked extremely well alongside Vettel, sparing Ferrari the dramarama of, say, Mercedes in 2016.
If Vettel was leaving, Ferrari might have good reason to be more aggressive with their driver lineup and swap out Räikkönen for a young, up-and-coming driver. After all, Räikkönen hasn’t had another win since he returned to Ferrari in 2014. But he’s been getting better this year, scoring his first pole position since 2008 at Monaco and finishing on the podium four times.
So, with Räikkönen staying, it would be a shock if Ferrari follows it up with anything besides “we’re keeping Vettel around.” Vettel’s current contract is set to end at this year, so it’s time for the team to renegotiate.
Notably, Mercedes’ young, upcoming Finn Valtteri Bottas and Räikkönen’s ex-Ferrari teammate and current Sad McLaren Man Fernando Alonso also haven’t nailed down their contracts for next year. If I had to guess, I’d say Bottas has earned the right to keep his Mercedes seat, though, as he currently sits third in the constructors’ championship. Räikkönen didn’t perform as well alongside Alonso, either, so Alonso moving to Ferrari in Vettel’s place seems unlikely.
Regardless, we’re more than glad that Kimi is back. His contract was only extended until the end of next year, per the BBC, but we’ll take what we can get. No one does obligatory F1 sponsor appearances quite as well as someone who clearly would rather be drinking in a sauna instead.