Ferrari retains Kimi Raikkonen for 2016 F1 season

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Scuderia Ferrari has confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen will spend a sixth year with the team in Formula 1 after opting to activate the option in his contract for 2016.

Raikkonen spent three years with Ferrari between 2007 and 2009, winning the F1 drivers’ championship in his first season with the Italian team.

The Finn returned to Maranello in 2014 after spending two years with Lotus F1 Team on a two-year deal that also gave the team an option for a third.

Despite there being speculation in the Italian press that Raikkonen could be replaced by Valtteri Bottas for 2016, Ferrari has opted to retain the 2007 world champion for 2016.

“Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” a short statement from the team reads.

“The driver line-up next season will still consist of the Finnish driver and Sebastian Vettel.”

By retaining Raikkonen, Ferrari has sparked the dominoes that will see the driver market for the 2016 season fall into place over the coming months.

Bottas had been linked to the team despite having one year remaining on his contract with Williams, with Ferrari reportedly offering the British team a sizeable sum to secure the Finn’s services. Now, he is now set to see out his contract with the team in 2016.

Other drivers that will be affected include Nico Hulkenberg at Force India, who had been linked with a number of seats further up the field, and even Jenson Button, who is known to be at risk of losing his McLaren seat for next season.

This decision could even have far-reaching effects on Haas F1 Team when it joins the grid for 2016. Earlier this week, team principal Guenther Steiner said that he was waiting to see how the other drivers fell into place before making a call on a line-up; Raikkonen’s confirmation is likely to be the catalyst.

For Raikkonen, the announcement will also ease a great deal of pressure that had been upon his shoulders. The Finn called out reporters on speculation about his future earlier this year, but will now be able to focus on improving his on-track performances.