Sauber not ruling out Kimi Raikkonen link for 2019 F1 season

Sauber boss Fred Vasseur has not ruled out the suggestion that Kimi Raikkonen could return to the team where he started his Formula 1 career

With Ferrari understood to be ready to promote protege and current Sauber driver Charles Leclerc into its main team for 2019, there has also been talk that the 2007 F1 world champion could move in the opposite direction.

Ferrari is understood to have the right to name one of the two Sauber drivers, and current Sauber third driver Antonio Giovinazzi is the obvious candidate as no other drivers in the Maranello junior programme are suitably qualified.

The suggestion is that the Sauber seat could instead be earmarked for Raikkonen as part of a package that keeps him within the Ferrari family if he is willing to continue his career into 2019.

When asked if putting a past champion in the car would put too much pressure on the Sauber, Vasseur replied: "It is a problem for the rich? I don't care, I want to have the best guys into the car, this is the most important for the team, and no sacrifice with performance.

"It is much better to have a world champion than someone who won nothing.

"I am just focused on performance. The most important for me is to have the best line-up for next year and the future. That is my only concern."

Raikkonen made his F1 debut with Sauber in 2001, but Vasseur said he would not be swayed either by team history or his own relationships with drivers he had run in junior racing.

"Honestly, it would not be a good approach," he said.

"In the driver selection and choice, it is important to have a common approach and not because I ran with a guy in F3 15 years ago, or he drove for Sauber 10 years ago."

Giovinazzi remains the logical candidate to replace Leclerc, and Vasseur admitted that the Italian had a good chance.

"It is a good feeling that Antonio wants to be involved and we can be proud, and he will be on the list for sure," he said.

"We will do some FP1s together and it is probably the best way for me to know the guy, and to understand each other.

"We did the same last year with Charles and it was a good first step in the collaboration."

Vasseur downplayed Ferrari's role in the choice of drivers: "We will discuss with Ferrari. It is not a matter of rights, but we will discuss together.

"It is not one list for one side and another one."

Sauber has also been mentioned as a possible home for Force India racer Sergio Perez.

Vasseur admitted that the calibre of driver looking at Sauber had risen with its improvement this year.

"It is a very good feeling to have this sensation that you are attractive," he said.

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