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Raikkonen signs new Ferrari deal for 2018

Formula One looks to add two new street races in Asia

Image Credit: AFP
Kimi Raikkonen
Gulf News

Paris: Kimi Raikkonen has signed a one-year contract extension with Ferrari for the 2018 season, the Formula One team announced on Tuesday.

“Ferrari announces that Scuderia Ferrari has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” a team statement read.

“The Finnish driver will therefore race for the Maranello team in the 2018 Formula One World Championship.”

Raikkonen’s signature comes after he chased home Sebastian Vettel in a dominant Ferrari display in the Hungarian Grand Prix last time out.

Vettel, who increased his lead over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to 14 points, has yet to confirm his plans for 2018.

His contract expires at the end of the year but the German is expected to keep his easy partnership with the Finn intact for 2018.

“I think I have been public on the Sebastian issue, if he wants to stay he is more than welcome to stay,” said Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne after Hungary.

For Raikkonen, 37, Tuesday’s deal secures his fifth consecutive season with Ferrari after an initial spell at Maranello when he captured the world title in 2007.

He is placed fifth in the 2017 drivers’ standings on 116 points ahead of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Formula One, meanwhile, is looking to stage two more street races in Asia as part of a drive to win new fans, one of the sport’s most senior officials said on Tuesday.

F1 is reinventing itself under US-based Liberty Media, who completed their takeover of motorsport’s most prestigious brand in January in a deal valued at about $8 billion, ending the four-decade reign of Bernie Ecclestone as Formula One’s colourful ringmaster.

Singapore’s night street circuit has proved particularly popular with fans and drivers since making its debut in 2008 and managing director of commercial operations, Sean Bratches, says F1 enthusiasts can expect to see more street races in future.

“I’m spending a lot of time reaching out proactively to cities ... and think ultimately we will realise more street races than we have seen historically,” he said, speaking in Shanghai, a race in the current calendar.

“We will go to iconic cities where there are large fan bases, particularly new fan bases that we can activate.”

He added: “From a fan standpoint the backdrops of these city centres ... can really make compelling television and pictures.”

Asked if that meant more street circuits in Asia, he said: “Yes, two.”

In the last five years the Indian and Korean grands prix have both fallen off the race calendar, while Malaysia has announced that this year’s race will be the last due to rising costs and low returns.

Talks are ongoing about extending Singapore’s contract.

Bratches said that in terms of sheer fan numbers Asia is Formula One’s biggest market and they are in negotiations for races in “entirely new places”.

“We are very focused on bringing additional GPs to the continent here. We’re in talks with a couple of cities to that end,” he said, declining to give further details.

The plan is to have a third of the season each in the Americas, Europe and Asia, said Bratches.

Unlike at present, when races jump from region to region, they will take place one continent at a time, he added, benefiting fans, sponsors, teams and organisers.

The Monaco Grand Prix remains the blue-riband event and Bratches believes fans want to see more such high-octane street racing.

“We think there is a lot of vibrancy to having a few more street races to the calendar,” he said.