It is a well-known fact among the F1 fraternity that Kimi Raikkonen is out of a contract come the end of the season. Ferrari only offered him a one-year deal last year and much like last year speculations arise for the second Ferrari driver. Ferrari do have a task on their hands as they have to find a replacement capable enough of representing the Prancing Horse in place of Kimi Raikkonen. They have turned into genuine title challengers over the past couple of years and would want to maintain that scenario with a driver who can challenge for those podiums and wins and keep that dream alive. They already have a four-time world champion in the other car, so they have to find a driver who can push him to the limit. Here, we have a list of five drivers who can replace Kimi Raikkonen:
1) Daniel Ricciardo
A move that makes complete sense. Daniel Ricciardo has been at Red Bull for 5 seasons now, but has only won 6 races. That can also be down to the fading away of Red Bull after the 2013 season. The Aussie is a proven driver on the grid, consistently making the drivers of the top two teams uncomfortable. Few can argue that he deserves to win more races and challenge for the world title. A move to Ferrari can offer him just that, with the Scuderia upping their game, consistently showing it across all races this year except for Spain. He has been teammates with Vettel in the past and Vettel has seemingly given his thumbs-up for the move.
2) Valtteri Bottas
One Finn replacing another? We sure would love to see that. Besides, it has happened before when Raikkonen replaced a retiring Mika Hakkinen. Valtteri Bottas has announced himself on the big stage with strong performances for Mercedes this year. Last season, he seemed overwhelmed with a move to a top team but recovered well to take three victories across the season. This year, apart from the Australian GP blip, he has been phenomenal, often outpacing his illustrious teammate, Hamilton. He too is out of a contract at the end of the season, but with Toto Wolff throwing his weight behind the Finn, this move looks a little tough to negotiate.
3) Charles Leclerc
This young man is a driver to watch out for in the future. Charles Leclerc is all of 21 years old but he has shown capabilities that belies his age. The Monegasque driver has finished in the points in the last two races and that is no mean feat, considering that Sauber is essentially a backmarker car. He won his first driver of the day award in Baku and duelled with Alonso for a number of laps in the Spanish Grand Prix before eventually being passed by the home hero. He has the right temperament and has the added advantage of being a part of Ferrari’s academy, so they have an intimate knowledge of his abilities. Ferrari should tie him down before other teams start to take notice.
4) Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez has been on the F1 grid since 2011. He made his debut with Sauber, moved to McLaren for one season and then to Force India, where he remains to this day. Checo recently became the most successful Mexican driver in F1, with an 8th career podium in Baku. He has a wealth of experience and his fiery driving style is entertaining, though it can come with its complications. He has spent his whole career with fairly average teams, but has always defied odds to perform extremely well with the limited quality of his equipment. Force India have been the ‘best of the rest’ in the past couple of seasons and that in large part can be attributed to Perez’s performances. He is also a former Ferrari academy driver.
5) Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg is probably the most unlucky driver on the F1 grid this season. He has been a veteran of 142 Grand Prix but has failed to earn a podium so far. He came close in the 2017 Singapore GP, but his Renault engine gave way at just the wrong time. But all through his stint in F1, Nico has always been consistently in the points. Last year, while Jolyon Palmer struggled with his car, Hulkenberg was putting his Renault into Q3 most of the times and also had strong races, with constant top 10 finishes. This year too, he has shone so far, with a crash at Baku and an engine failure at Spain being the only exceptions. He does not make many mistakes on race day and can easily slot into a Ferrari seat in place of Finn Kimi Raikkonen.