Back in 2017, Alfa Romeo representatives met with Kimi Raikkonen to convince him to move on from Ferrari. According to team manager Beat Zehnder, they all met in a private plane to discuss terms and conditions.
The move would be poetic because, Raikkonen made his F1 debut with Sauber back in 2001. However, he is back with the Swiss-based team, who are now racing under the Alfa Romeo brand. The Finnish veteran leaves behind a second Ferrari stint, that lasted five years. Now, Kimi Raikkonen is well on his way to breaking Rubens Barrichello’s record for the most race starts.
Speaking to Motorsport.com team manager Zehnder revealed how Alfa Romeo enticed Raikkonen to their squad.
“I was working on that for quite a long time,” Zehnder said. “When he finished third at Silverstone in 2017 with Ferrari, he gave me a ride back in the private plane. Then we started talking about his future.”
“I said: ‘Listen, if you don’t want to drive for Ferrari any more, or if they dismiss you, then please contact me. I will make it possible.
“We’ll find a way, if you’re interested and you’re motivated to come back to Sauber.’ We always had talks about this over the years.”
Soon enough, Ferrari announced Raikkonen’s exit ahead of the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. Instead, Monegasque star, Charles Leclerc, would succeed him.
Zehnder continued, “We had a meeting which was the Tuesday after the race with Fred, Kimi, and myself. We basically did a contract within two hours. Well, a contract – we did an agreement, because Kimi doesn’t read contracts!”
“Through all the years, we had a very special connection. At the time of refuelling, we would always tell him how much fuel we had at the start, and would always have a very good connection to each other.”
According to him, Kimi Raikkonen changed a lot over the past 18 years. So, he was able to channel all his experience into improving the team and his teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi.