F1 Raceweek: Driver merry-go-round continues ahead of Singapore GP

Kimi Raikkonen has swapped places with Charles Leclerc ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of the 2018 Formula One season and join Sauber.   -  Getty Images

The Formula One title race has had to jostle for column inches with a particularly enthralling driver merry-go-round in recent weeks, with Kimi Raikkonen and Charles Leclerc the latest to reveal their 2019 plans.

Raikkonen is to leave Ferrari to rejoin Sauber after 17 years away, with Leclerc - 18 years younger than the Finn - heading in the opposite direction. LeClerc was three years old during Raikkonen's F1 debut.

Sebastian Vettel will not allow the noise around his change of team-mate to distract him as he enters a critical period in his pursuit of championship leader Lewis Hamilton ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

ALSO READ | Raikkonen to leave Ferrari and join Sauber

The rivals had a coming together in Italy last time out and, while Mercedes driver went on to win the race, Vettel was forced to battle his way back through the field to finish fourth.

That left the German 30 points adrift of the defending champion with seven races to go, meaning even a win around the Marina Bay Street Circuit would not send Vettel top, regardless of how Hamilton fares.

Vettel is a four-time winner in Singapore but has endured a difficult couple of years in the race in recent years.

Following his most recent victory there in 2015, Vettel finished fifth in 2016 and was taken out by a first-corner crash involving Max Verstappen and Raikkonen last year.

ALSO READ | Dreams do come true - Leclerc determined to impress Ferrari

 

TALK OF THE PADDOCK

While most will have seen the end of Raikkonen's Ferrari stint coming for some time, few could have predicted that he would choose to continue his career further down the grid.

The 2007 world champion is returning to where it all began by signing a two-year deal with Sauber, having spent his first season in the sport with the Swiss outfit way back in 2001.

Leclerc's move to Ferrari, meanwhile, has long been anticipated, with the Monegasque - part of the Ferrari Driver Academy - impressing during his development, winning the GP3 series and Formula 2 before making his F1 bow with Sauber.

ALSO READ | Raikkonen to drive at 41 - but he won't come close to F1's golden oldies

The latest movements mean the 2019 grid is filling up. Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault and McLaren have all confirmed their pairings for next year.

The announcement of Racing Point Force India likely to have a significant bearing on the remainder of the driver market. The team could well recruit Lance Stroll from Williams, (the Canadian's father led the team's recent takeover) which would leave Sergio Perez or more likely Esteban Ocon looking for a seat.

 

STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 256
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 226 (-30)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 164 (-92)
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 159 (-97)
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 130 (-126)

Constructors

1. Mercedes 415
2. Ferrari 390 (-25)
3. Red Bull 248 (-167)
4. Renault 86 (-329)
5. Haas 76 (-339)

RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times local)

Friday

FP1 (16:30-18:00)
FP2 (20:30-22:00)

Saturday

FP3 (18:00-19:00)
Qualifying (21:00-22:00)

Sunday

Race (20:10-22:10)

F1 TRIVIA

Singapore is the only race on the current F1 schedule run entirely during night hours. In fact, the 2017 edition was the first ever night race to see rain.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Sebastian Vettel