Sauber not ruling out Raikkonen return

Sauber have refused to quash rumours that Kimi Raikkonen could return to the team next season in what would be a straight swap with Charles Leclerc.

While it has been widely reported that Ferrari are considering Leclerc for next season, earlier this week Swiss publication Blick reported that Raikkonen could be signed as the Monaco driver’s replacement.

That would see the Finn return to the team with whom he began his Formlua 1 career in 2001.

Asked if Sauber could handle the pressure of racing a World Champion, team boss Fred Vasseur told Autosport: “It is a problem for the rich?

“I don’t care, I want to have the best guys into the car, this is the most important for the team, and no sacrifice with performance.

“It is much better to have a World Champion than someone who won nothing.

“I am just focused on performance. The most important for me is to have the best line-up for next year and the future. That is my only concern.”

Vasseur, though, insists he won’t let the fact that Raikkonen or any driver has a history with Sauber sway his decision.

“Honestly, it would not be a good approach,” he said.

“In the driver selection and choice, it is important to have a common approach and not because I ran with a guy in F3 15 years ago, or he drove for Sauber 10 years ago.”

Raikkonen spent a year with Sauber, scoring nine points on his way to 10th in the championship. The following season he moved to McLaren.

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Vettel diplomatic on Kimi/Leclerc conundrum

Sebastian Vettel has said he is not actively pushing for Charles Leclerc to become his team-mate at Ferrari and is happy alongside Kimi Raikkonen.

Ferrari are faced with a key decision ahead of the 2019 season: whether to retain the services of Raikkonen for another year or thrust their rising star Leclerc into the Scuderia spotlight after impressing at Sauber.

With his own future very much secure at Ferrari, Vettel was asked about who his team-mate would be next season and whether he had any preference.

“I would be happy to continue like that but it is not for me to mention, or to decide,” Vettel said in the FIA drivers’ press conference in Germany.

“I think Charles, one way or the other, will have a great career. He is a great guy, he is fast and has everything.

“He has no rush. He is young, but if you are young you are always in a rush with everything!

“I don’t know when or what and ultimately who [my teammate will be]. But…it doesn’t really matter to me.

“For me it is clear where I am next year but I think both of them would suit into the team.”

Vettel also reiterated that he has a strong relationship with his current team-mate Raikkonen.

“I like Kimi,” Vettel added.

“We get along, and we have never had any issues.

“Sometimes on track I remember I drove into him and crashed into him, but the way we handle things is very similar and very straightforward.”

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JV: Hitting Bottas would have only cost Kimi 5s

Jacques Villeneuve reckons if Kimi Raikkonen had hit Valtteri Bottas instead of Lewis Hamilton, he would have received a lesser penalty at the British Grand Prix.

The Finn crashed into Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap of Sunday’s British Grand Prix, earning him a 10-second time penalty.

However, such is the stewarding in Formula 1, the former World Champion Villeneuve reckons it would have been a smaller punishment had he hit anyone but Hamilton.

“I don’t understand why it’s 10 seconds, and another time it’s five, sometimes it’s nothing,” JV told Autosport.

“That’s what’s wrong. It’s racing.

“I don’t like it when there are racing penalties, it should be for dirty driving, which is a different thing, or stupid driving.

“They decided that it’s Lewis, we’re in the UK, he’s fighting for the championship, that’s worth 10 seconds.

“If it had been Bottas, it would have been five seconds, that’s the thing.”

Two weeks prior Vettel received a five-second penalty for tagging Bottas at the French Grand Prix while in Austria Max Verstappen escape sanctions for making contact with Raikkonen.

Villeneuve added: “Sometimes you see things like Verstappen in Austria, when he touched Kimi.

“Why wasn’t that a penalty? Just because Kimi didn’t go off? If Kimi had gone off, then it would have been a penalty?

“That’s what’s wrong, it’s the action that matters, not what happens after the action, ultimately.”

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‘Raikkonen is not that kind of driver’

Christian Horner says there is no way Kimi Raikkonen deliberately hit Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone as he is not “that kind of driver.”

Hamilton was furious with the Finn and Ferrari as a whole, accusing them of “interesting tactics” after Raikkonen pitched him into a spin on the opening lap of the British GP.

And while the Mercedes driver has subsequently accepted Raikkonen’s apology and that it was a racing incident, the matter rumbles on with F1 fans all having their say.

One person who believes Raikkonen is innocent of malicious driving is Red Bull team boss Horner.

“When you have that growing tension, speculation is unavoidable when these incidents occur,” he said.

“But I believe it’s nothing more than a racing incident.

“I would be surprised if there was anything else or if Kimi is that kind of driver.”

Former World Champion Nico Rosberg also weighed in on the incident, saying it was definitely not deliberate.

Speaking on his YouTube channel, Rosberg said: “The answer is pretty simple. 100% not on purpose.

“We also saw that in Austria because even there, Kimi is not driving for Sebastian.

“In Austria, Kimi was second and Sebastian third and there was no letting Sebastian past at all. They didn’t even consider that.

“Kimi is driving for his own thing. Kimi was out there and just completely messed it up, braked way too late, locked up and torpedoed into Lewis.

“It is unusual for Kimi because usually those kind of things don’t happen to him. So a bit strange.

“But definitely not on purpose, and well deserved to get a 10-second penalty and two [licence penalty] points.”

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Raikkonen: My bad, but that’s how it goes

Kimi Raikkonen has held up his hand in his clash with Lewis Hamilton, admitting he was in the wrong, took the penalty and fought back.

The Ferrari driver was hit with a 10-second time penalty after pitching Hamilton into a spin at the start of Sunday’s British GP.

Raikkonen continued lapping, battling the Red Bulls before his timed penalty, taken at his pit stop, saw him fall outside the top ten.

The Finn fought back to finish third.

“On the second or third corner I locked the wheel and was behind his car and ended up hitting Lewis on the rear corner,” he said.

“Obviously he spun. My bad, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

“It was a bit… not a straightforward race.”

Pressed on the penalty, he replied: “It was my mistake so that is fine and I deserved it.

“I took the 10 seconds and kept fighting so that’s how it goes.

“For sure without the mistakes and penalty it would have been better but I tried.”

The 2007 World Champion then had a dig at the constant reports that his days at Ferrari, and in Formula 1, are numbered.

He added: “Obviously my view I did the best I could do but obviously there seems to be opposite looks on what I’m doing unfortunately.

“That’s it.”

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Raikkonen: Last-gasp mistake cost me pole

Kimi Raikkonen has conceded that a mistake at Club corner cost him pole position ahead of the British Grand Prix.

The Finn played his part in a thrilling qualifying at Silverstone, finishing just 0.098 seconds off pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel sandwiched in between a mere 0.044 seconds away.

“I think I had all the tools today to be faster but I locked the front wheel going into Turn 16 on the last lap,” said Raikkonen.

“For sure I gave away enough time there to be on the front.

“I’m sure there were places to gain time and be up there but it obviously didn’t happen today.

“This is what we’ve got, it was close but third is not too bad.”

Although Raikkonen had to settle for P3 on Sunday’s grid, he is happy with the car he has at his disposal as Ferrari look to take the fight to Mercedes.

I think my car should be good for tomorrow,” he added.

“It will not be easy. You might see a few different things tomorrow. We will aim for the top for sure.”

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Raikkonen weighs in on Ferrari team orders

While Kimi Raikkonen accepts there may come a time when team orders are in play at Ferrari, he says that point has not yet arrived.

There were questions about Ferrari’s use of team orders during Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix when Raikkonen was running second to Sebastian Vettel’s third.

However, rather than swap their drivers around, Ferrari allowed them to race to the line with Raikkonen beating Vettel on the day.

But while Austria may have played out in his favour, Raikkonen acknowledges that Ferrari will likely use team orders later in the season if deemed necessary.

“We’ve always said that we have very clear rules and that’s what we go by since I’ve been in this team,” he told ESPN.

“We know what will happen and when, and if it comes to that then it’s very normal for us.

“It’s only from all you [the media] that you make a big story out of this.

“At a certain point it’s always going to happen and that’s more than fair but right now it’s not the time yet.”

The Finn’s runner-up result at the Red Bull Ring moved him up to third in the championship.

Raikkonen now sits on 101 points, 45 behind Vettel, with a maximum of 300 still in play.

Asked about his chances of winning the title, the 2007 World Champion replied: “For sure it’s better than a few races ago!

“Obviously Mercedes had two non-finishes, that’s definitively helping me and also helping the team, but that’s part of the game, unfortunately. Apart from that I think we’ve been doing a pretty solid job but it could always be better.

“We need to make sure those things don’t happen again because you cannot just expect that everybody else has days like that. Maybe ten years ago it was more likely that every team, every car, would stop at some point in a race but we’ve seen in the last few years that’s very unlikely that it will happen.

“It may happen sometimes but you cannot expect it to happen to the others because it has happened to you. It doesn’t work like that anymore. Apart from that it hasn’t been too bad and we try to keep it up and do the best we can and, hopefully, keep scoring good points.”

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