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Raikkonen hopeful of remaining at Ferrari for 2017 F1 season

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Kimi Raikkonen hopes that he can remain with Ferrari for the 2017 Formula 1 season, but concedes that the decision about his future lies solely with the team.

Raikkonen’s motivation and on-track form has come into question in recent years, but Ferrari opted to stick with him alongside Sebastian Vettel for 2016 despite the Finn scoring over 100 points less than his teammate last year.

Raikkonen has enjoyed an upturn in form at the start of the new season, scoring three podium finishes in the opening six races to sit one point ahead of Vettel in the drivers’ championship.

Paddock speculation suggests that Raikkonen will be kept on for 2017, and although Raikkonen said he is keen to stay, he admitted that the decision is Ferrari’s to make.

“I don’t know anything more. You guys seem to know a lot every week, this and that,” Raikkonen said when asked about his future.

“It’s not my decision in the end. I always said I’m happy to be here, I hope I will be here helping Ferrari to get where we want to get as a team.

“What happens in the future, we’ll see.”

Despite being tipped to topple Mercedes at the start of the season, Ferrari has struggled to put up much of a fight to the German marque in the opening six races, and appears to have slipped behind Red Bull in the pecking order.

However, Raikkonen remains certain that the team has progressed and that the SF16-H car is stronger than its predecessor.

“We know what we’ve done. We’re definitely stronger in the car and other areas than we were last year,” Raikkonen said.

“Maybe the results haven’t showed it exactly. It hasn’t been the easiest start for us as a team, but we keep working and it will pay off.

“The package has improved and we’re working on that all the time, our weakness. You always look for better results and wins and putting the two cars up there.

“We are more or less there, so we keep doing the same things.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race the No. 3 vs. IndyCar stars in Michigan iRacing

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).