Ferrari announced today that it would be retaining Kimi Raikkonen for the 2017 season. The deal didn't come as a surprise but the official announcement made it very real. Raikkonen will be sticking with the Scuderia for 2018 - but why have Ferrari decided to keep him?
There doesn't seem to be much confidence left in the people that claim Raikkonen is still a world class driver. The Finn hasn't been his same self since he rejoined Ferrari in 2014, partnering Fernando Alonso who was starting his final year with the team.
Raikkonen's biggest issue is his consistency. We have seen that there are flashes of the driver we knew back when he was battling Michael Schumacher for the 2003 world championship, or Lewis Hamilton for the spoils in 2007. In Monaco, he showed class, but when else have we really seen that stand out quality this year? Hungary, perhaps, but it certainly hasn't been enough
Retaining Raikkonen is a small bit of a risk for Ferrari, and they probably know that. It seems like that aspect has been hushed into a corner and silenced, yet it can still be seen out of the corner of the eye. In real terms, its a risk to Ferrari's hope of securing a constructor's title.
Then again, would it not be a risk to bring in someone new to the team, who doesn't know the mechanics and engineers? Ferrari has evaluated both options and has got with the lesser evil in keeping Raikkonen. He is a risk, but not a liability.
Sebastian Vettel, who, let's face it, is the number one driver at Ferrari, has been in full support of Kimi Raikkonen this year and has told media that he wanted the 2007 champion to be his teammate for next year. Best Ferrari keep Seb happy amid all these Mercedes rumours, eh?
In all seriousness though, the Vettel/Raikkonen partnership works very well, as the two have the utmost respect for each other and get along swingingly. Raikkonen has fallen into a support role for his teammate, but is still contributing nicely to the constructor's championship - he just needs to keep that up on a consistent basis and not let the two Mercedes' get the better of him.
Then you have to look at Ferrari's junior drivers. The team was never going to fit Charles Leclerc or Antonio Giovinazzo into the seat for next year, not while they have so little experience. However, with both being hot prospects, it may be that Ferrari will evaluate them after a year in the sport and decide if they're worthy of a seat at Ferrari.
That's assuming that both men get drives next season, which in itself is unlikely. One of them will no doubt replace Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber, but Marcus Ericsson is supposedly tied in pretty well with the team, and there are no openings at Haas.
So by keeping the Finn on for another year, Ferrari's rhythm will not be interrupted and there won't be any new distractions. And that may well be very beneficial now that the Maranello squad has found itself fighting at the front once again.