Getty Images

F1: Former champion Raikkonen leaving Ferrari for Sauber

1 Comment

MARANELLO, Italy (AP) Kimi Raikkonen is leaving Ferrari for Sauber and will be replaced by rookie Charles Leclerc.

Raikkonen, who won the 2007 Formula 1 title with Ferrari, will be heading back to Sauber next season while Leclerc will take his seat alongside Sebastian Vettel.

The 20-year-old Leclerc is touted as one of the most talented young drivers in F1 and had been widely expected to move to Ferrari if Raikkonen left.

The young driver from Monaco had earned praise from across the F1 paddock – including from world champions Vettel and Lewis Hamilton – after a strong showing in his debut season with Sauber.

during the Formula One Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 24, 2018 in Le Castellet, France.

“Dreams do come true,” Leclerc wrote on Twitter. “I’ll be driving for (at)scuderiaferrari for the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship. I will be eternally grateful to (at)scuderiaferrari for the opportunity given.”

Raikkonen will be back with the team where he started his F1 career in 2001. The Finn signed with Sauber for the next two seasons.

“Signing Kimi Raikkonen as our driver represents an important pillar of our project, and brings us closer to our target of making significant progress as a team in the near future,” Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur said Tuesday. “Kimi’s undoubted talent and immense experience in Formula One will not only contribute to the development of our car, but will also accelerate the growth and development of our team as a whole.”

Raikkonen has 20 wins and 100 podium finishes in his F1 career. Nine of those wins came with Ferrari, where he had been since 2014. He also was with the team from 2007-09 before leaving to compete in the World Rally Championship for two years. He returned to F1 in 2012 to drive for Lotus, where he stayed until rejoining Ferrari two years later.

“During these years, Kimi’s contribution to the team, both as a driver and on account of his human qualities, has been fundamental,” Ferrari said in a statement. “He played a decisive role in the team’s growth and was, at the same time, always a great team player. As a world champion for Scuderia Ferrari, he will always be part of the team’s history and family. We thank Kimi for all of this and wish him and his family a prosperous future.”

Leclerc, a member of Ferrari’s driver academy, won the GP3 title in 2016 and the F2 title in 2017 before joining Sauber in F1 this season. His highest finish was sixth place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“It’s been a great pleasure to support Charles Leclerc in his rookie year in Formula One,” Vasseur said. “Since his arrival, he has given the team great motivation. We have constantly improved and we will work hard until the end of this season to achieve the best possible results together. We are aware of Charles’ talent and are confident that he will have a bright future.”

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
Leave a comment

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter