Just two days after retiring from his 151st and final outing for Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen was back on track in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. But this time, he’d swapped his red car for a white one, as he slipped behind the wheel of a Sauber for the first time in 17 years ahead of re-joining the Swiss team in 2019.
Wearing a set of plain white overalls and an icy monochrome version of his helmet design, the Finn took to the circuit on the first day of the post-season Pirelli tyre test in the Sauber C37 driven in 2018 by Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc, the driver who’ll replace Raikkonen at Ferrari next year, and who’ll be in action for his new squad on the Wednesday of the test.
The Iceman and his fellow drivers’ main task this week at Yas Marina is to try out the five tyre compounds Pirelli will provide in 2019, alongside the 2018 tyres. However, as Raikkonen revealed after the race in Abu Dhabi, it is also a good chance for him to see how the C37 compares to his Ferrari this year – and to assess any glaring problem areas that he feels need to be worked on ahead of next year.
Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Sauber C37 at Formula One Testing, Day One, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Tuesday 27 November 2018.
“I wanted to do the test to see how the car is,” said Raikkonen, “if there’s any big things we need to look at, we’d have more time, and obviously there are next year’s tyres.”
Asked on Sunday evening if he was excited about the prospect of going back to Sauber, Raikkonen replied: “I am actually. I would never have signed the contract if I didn’t think it will be something I want.
“It will be interesting to start working with them. It’s a new challenge and that’s what I wanted.”
Raikkonen will be cheered by the progress Sauber have made in 2018, with Ericsson and Leclerc helping the Swiss team to their highest points finish in the post-2014 hybrid era. And with a world champion in one of their cars for the first time since Jacques Villeneuve in 2006, the team will hoping that they can soar to even greater heights in 2019.
Click here to see how Raikkonen fared on his first day with Sauber.
RAIKKONEN: Sauber is a new challenge, and that’s what I wanted