Sebastian Vettel might not be joined by Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari next year
Raikkonen will start third on the grid for today’s British Grand Prix, hoping to improve upon his third position in the F1 World Drivers’ Championship or even pick up his first race win since 2013.
His dry spell has led many to link Ferrari young driver Leclerc, currently impressing for back-markers Sauber, to his seat for next year and David Coulthard, who drove alongside Raikkonen at McLaren for three seasons in the early 2000s, also believes it is time for the Monegasque make the step up to a top team.
“I think he’s ready now – although like a puppy, he’ll still pee on the carpet occasionally,” Coulthard told Express Sport.
Charles Leclerc has impressed at Sauber and could be in a Ferrari seat next year
“Kimi is a safe pair of hands but he’s just not regularly delivering the magic.
“He’s a very good racing driver but you’re looking for exceptional. What Max Verstappen did in Austria was exceptional and what Sebastian Vettel does most of the time is exceptional.
“I think we’ve reached that point where it’s sane and rational to take what would be considered a chance with Charles.
“He’s part of the Ferrari young driver programme, he’s driving a Ferrari engine [at Sauber] so he’s shown speed with all the idiosyncrasies of deploying the Ferrari and he knows how to drive and isn’t making any more mistakes.
“He certainly won’t make more mistakes than Raikkonen. His time is now.”
Leclerc impressed in qualifying once again yesterday, finishing ninth and giving himself a realistic chance of adding to his 13 points in just nine starts in F1.
And while his future remains uncertain for next year, so does that of a number of there drivers on the grid – Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Fernando Alonso all currently do not have contracts for 2019.
However, Coulthard reckons that the uncertainty will not lead to much change over the summer.
“I think that the chairs are all set and the drivers are settled on them,” Coulthard added.
“Lewis is going to get a deal done with Mercedes, then the obvious thing is for Daniel to stay at Red Bull. Then Carlos Sainz can get locked in to Renault.
“The only real rumour is that Leclerc has signed a two-year deal with Ferrari which would mean Kimi stopping.”
In fact, Coulthard is surprised that Ferrari have not already effectively retired Raikkonen by giving team-mate Vettel preferential treatment, as they did for years with Rubens Barrichello and the legendary Michael Schumacher.
“I thought Ferrari would have moved Kimi to one side, not because I wanted that to happen but it seemed like the obvious thing in the championship battle and Ferrari have done that in the past with Michael,” Coulthard said.
“It might be a case of turning over a new sporting leaf of ‘we’d rather lose and be completely open with our drivers rather than win by deploying all the aspects available to you in the sport’.”
This weekend’s British Grand Prix will be live on Channel 4 on Sunday July 8 from 1.40pm.