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Ferrari retains Kimi Raikkonen for 2018

Ferrari has confirmed Kimi Raikkonen will remain at the team for the 2018 championship season, ending speculation about the Finn's immediate future.

Raikkonen has failed to record a win since returning to Ferrari in 2014 but has been retained on a year-by-year basis in recent seasons. The 2007 world champion's inconsistent form has led to speculation he would be dropped for next year's campaign, though he has provided good support to teammate Sebastian Vettel's championship bid, namely at the Hungarian Grand Prix when he acted as rear-gunner against the charging Lewis Hamilton.

The deal -- confirmed in a short statement on Tuesday -- is likely to be followed by similar news for teammate Vettel, whose existing contract also runs until the end of the current season. Vettel is known to be an advocate of Raikkonen remaining at the team as he enjoys a good relationship with the Finn.

Raikkonen had faced internal pressure to improve his performances this season, with Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne calling him "a laggard" during the Austrian Grand Prix. That came despite securing his first pole position since 2008 for May's Monaco Grand Prix, though that became a controversial race for Ferrari as a questionable strategy for the race leader helped Vettel win, fuelling suggestions the Italian squad is favouring the German this year.

Ferrari's attentions will now turn to the championship leader, who has stalled on signing a new long-term deal. Recent reports in Italy have suggested he is only willing to sign a one-year extension as Vettel is mindful of the driver situation at Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton's current deal expiring at the end of 2018. Raikkonen's extension all but confirms Vettel will remain with the team for next year at least.

An unchanged line-up at Ferrari would likely lead to similar for Mercedes. The world champions signed Valtteri Bottas to a one-year deal to replace the retired Nico Rosberg this season but have stalled on offering him another deal with uncertainty hanging over Vettel's future. With Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen locked into at least one more year each with Red Bull, the top three teams should look exactly the same come the season opener next year.

Author: Nate Saunders, ESPN UK
Source: http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/story/_/id/20415439/ferrari-retains-kimi-raikkonen-2018

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