The announcement comes as Ferrari gears up to tackle the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix as Formula One’s mid-season hiatus comes to an end at Spa-Francorchamps. This weekend’s race represents a historic milestone for the legendary Italian outfit which will take to the track for the 900th time in Formula One – more than any other team in the sport’s history.
News of Räikkönen’s contract renewal extends the 35 year-old’s second spell with the Prancing Horse to three years. The Finn has yet to taste victory in red since his 2014 return to the Scuderia. His first stint with the team he affectionately calls “my family” was rather more successful, with Räikkönen securing a total of nine GP victories and one world championship between 2007 and 2009. The enigmatic ‘Ice Man’ turned his back on Formula One in 2010 and spent two mixed years dabbling in WRC and NASCAR before returning to the F1 paddock with Lotus in 2012.
It is understood that Ferrari had been considering another Finn, Williams star Valtteri Bottas, as a potential partner for Sebastian Vettel next season. The consistent good form of Bottas, coupled with Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne’s thinly veiled warning earlier this year for Räikkönen to raise his game, fuelled speculation that the Scuderia might be about to trade in its existing Finn for a younger model. However, Bottas’ current contract with Williams grants the British team an option to retain him in 2016. Buying the 25 year-old out of his present deal was clearly adjudged to have been too costly by Ferrari bosses. However, they will no doubt revisit the situation this time next year if the younger Finn continues to flourish in the cockpit.
Ferrari’s other long-term target, Daniel Ricciardo, recently penned a four year deal with current employers Red Bull, keeping the Australian star tied down to Christian Horner’s outfit for the foreseeable future.
Räikkönen currently sits fifth in the drivers’ world championship standings with a total of 76 points. His best result so far this season came in Bahrain where he finished second to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. However, he has failed to complete two of the last three races following a dramatic collision with Fernando Alonso in Austria and technical problems with his car’s energy recovery system in Hungary.
Even though he may never get back to the peak of his driving powers, few will be disappointed to see one of modern motor racing’s true characters back on the grid in 2016 for his fourteenth season in Formula One.