Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc has impressed in his debut F1 season with the Alfa Romeo Sauber team. In this picture, Leclerc of Monaco and Sauber F1 arrives at the circuit before the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada, June 10, 2018. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

The 2018 season could likely be Kimi Raikkonen’s last in Formula 1 with Ferrari set to replace him for the 2019 campaign with young upcoming star Charles Leclerc.

Raikkonen is into the final six months of the one-year deal he signed last season, and with the Finn turning 39 in October this year, Ferrari feel it is the right time to bring in a new candidate to partner Sebastian Vettel.

The Italian outfit’s president Sergio Marchionne indicated last year that Raikkonen will be retained as long as he is competitive and challenging for the top positions. The Finn started the 2018 season in fine fashion, consistently challenging his teammate.

Raikkonen picked up three podiums in the first four races, but that has faded in recent races. The disparity between teammates was clearly visible in Canada, when with the same car Vettel cruised to victory while the Finn had to settle for sixth place almost 30 seconds behind his teammate.

According to, Ferrari’s initial choice was to replace Raikkonen with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, who is also out of contract and open to leaving the Austrian-owned company. But Italian marque is said to have changed their mind after admitting that hiring another top driver will become an expensive affair.

Their decision to drop Ricciardo from the list made it a straight choice between Raikkonen and Leclerc. The Monegasque, who is in his maiden F1 season, is part of the Ferrari young driver program and is currently on loan to the Alfa Romeo Sauber team.

After a slow start to the season, Leclerc has impressed in the last few races, especially in Azerbaijan, when he drove his Sauber to sixth place. He has subsequently scored points in two of the last three races to take his tally to 10 points this season.

Raikkonen is clear that he wants to remain at Ferrari for at least one more season, but revealed that the final decision will be made by the team. The Italian outfit are yet to make a decision with regards to their next driver lineup, but believe that they are leaning towards promoting Leclerc to the works Ferrari team for the 2019 season.

The 39-year-old Ferrari driver and Ricciardo are the key pieces in the puzzle that is the F1 driver market. Ferrari’s decision on Kimi Raikkonen and the Australian’s decision about his next destination is likely to play an important role in deciding the futures of many other drivers.

Ferrari waited until August to hand Raikkonen a new contract last year, and it is likely to make a concrete decision for 2019 at the same time this year. If the Italian team do decide to drop Raikkonen, it remains to be seen if he will take up a drive with another team or simply call time on his career.