The seat swap of Charles Leclerc and Kimi Raikkonen was a major highlight of last month. While there were various rumours and speculations, Raikkonen agreeing to do a 2 year stint in Sauber surprised almost everyone. Some questioned Sauber for taking on an older driver instead of trying a fresh face while others applauded Raikkonen for his dedication to continue racing. Bernie Ecclestone, the former Formula One boss has an entirely different point of view.
“I think a lot of Kimi,” he told the Swiss business newspaper Handelszeitung. “He will do the Sauber team a lot of good.
“I’ve always regretted that top engineers from Mercedes or Ferrari hardly ever go to Sauber, although their infrastructure is great. It’s obviously very difficult to get people from Italy or England to go to Switzerland.”
“Absolutely. Sauber is now Ferrari,” said Ecclestone. “With Kimi the connection is strengthened more and Sauber will benefit as a team.”
Ecclestone further applauded Mercedes for the job they’ve been doing, but was hoping for a Ferrari revival to solidify business.
“Mercedes is doing a great job,” said Ecclestone. “But it’s bad for business when the tension goes out of it because someone is dominating.
“That’s why I regret that Ferrari wins the championship so rarely. We can’t forget that formula one is the entertainment business as well. And if it doesn’t entertain, it’s bad.
“We could see that when the TV numbers went down.”
The Sauber-Ferrari link is definitely stronger than ever especially considering, Ferrari’s parent company Alpha Romeo is the title sponsor of Sauber. It was only because of Alpha Romeo that the Sauber team could afford to buy this year’s Ferrari engines and perform to the level that they have done this year.
Further, Sauber has always been a playing field for Ferrari juniors and the tradition will continue in 2019 with Antonio Giovinazzi, a very promising Ferrari junior taking the second seat.
Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc have all graduated from Sauber to Ferrari.