Charles Leclerc: Kimi Raikkonen deserves 2018 Ferrari F1 deal

Ferrari Formula 1 junior driver Charles Leclerc reckons Kimi Raikkonen "deserves" another year of racing for the Scuderia, but hopes he will be on the 2018 F1 grid with Sauber

Charles Leclerc: Kimi Raikkonen deserves 2018 Ferrari F1 deal

There had been some speculation over the summer that Ferrari could opt to promote one of its junior drivers to its race team for next year, but that was dashed when Raikkonen was given another extension to his contract last week.

Leclerc tested Ferrari's 2017 F1 challenger at the Hungaroring earlier this month - topping the first day of running - and some reports suggested he was under consideration to replace Raikkonen.

Leclerc - The 'special one' in Ferrari's ranks

But after securing pole for the Formula 2 feature race in torrid conditions at Spa earlier on Friday, Leclerc explained that he had been anticipating Raikkonen's new deal and did not view the situation as a blow to his F1 ambitions.

"I was expecting Kimi to do another year in Formula 1," he said.

"He deserves it and that's the way it is.

"I'm still quite young, to be in Ferrari straightaway [in my] first year would be quite a big jump.

"I hope to be in the Sauber seat next year, we'll see how things go.

"For now I'm fully focusing on Formula 2 and then we'll see at the end of the year about opportunities."

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has strongly backed his firm's engine customer Sauber running its junior drivers in F1 from next season.

Extinguisher problem cause unknown

Leclerc leads the F2 championship by 54 points over Briton Oliver Rowland - he added four to his total with his seventh pole of 2017 - but missed much of Spa practice after his cockpit fire extinguisher went off as he drove through Eau Rouge early in the session.

The 19-year-old explained that his Prema Racing team has so far been unable to diagnose the cause of the fault - a problem that cost 2016 GP2 title winner Pierre Gasly third place in the Hockenheim feature race when he raced for the Italian squad last season.

But Leclerc, who had mechanical problems in Monaco and Hungary, added that he had no concerns about reliability heading into the final four rounds of the 2017 season.

"We don't really know what caused that," he said.

"In the compression of Eau Rouge the fire extinguisher just went off without any reason - I wasn't pushing the button or anything.

"The goal since the start of the season is to have the least issues possible, [the team has] always done their best.

"We have had quite a lot in the first part of the season on this side, but I think we are taking care for it to not happen again.

"This morning was definitely not the fault of the team - it's something that happened last year - but we don't really know the reason why."

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