Scuderia Ferrari announced on Wednesday that 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen has agreed to a new one-year contract that will keep the 35-year-old with the team throughout the 2016 season. Sky Sports were among the first to report the news.
As reported by Pitpass.com, the team released a short statement, saying: “Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen. The driver lineup next season will still consist of the Finnish driver and Sebastian Vettel.”
Via by Ian Parkes of Autosport, Raikkonen expressed his delight at signing the new deal and expressed his desire to end his career with Ferrari:
Raikkonen joined Ferrari from Team Lotus in 2014, where he was paired with Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard was replaced with Sebastian Vettel for the 2015 campaign. The Finn currently sits fifth in the driver's rankings, one point behind compatriot Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas was seen as one of the favourites to take Raikkonen's seat in 2016 after an impressive showing for Williams, and as reported by Corriere dello Sport (h/t Autoweek), Ferrari were widely expected to buy out his contract option for 2016, which in turn could have set off an avalanche of changes to the grid.
The likes of Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Nasr and Daniel Ricciardo could have all been affected in some way by a game of musical chairs, but instead, it seems the mass changes may be postponed for a year. F1 Paddock Pass isn't sure it will silence the speculation, however:
With the new deal now under his belt, Raikkonen is likely to treat the 2016 season as his final year in Formula 1, before retiring and handing his seat over to Bottas, or whichever young driver deemed good enough to partner Vettel by then. Bottas remains the favourite, ahead of Ricciardo and the talented but inexperienced Max Verstappen.