Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur says that Kimi Raikkonen's return to the Hinwil team is a big step forward. Raikkonen confirmed last week that he would be leaving Ferrari at the end of the 2018 season as they opted to promote junior driver Charles Leclerc.
However, Raikkonen announced that he would be sticking around in Formula 1, signing a two-year deal with Sauber - the team he made his F1 debut with in 2001. Sauber has been making gains on the midfield pack this year after two tough years at the back of the grid.
And Vasseur says that Raikkonen's experience will be a major boost for the team: "Clearly Kimi has huge experience in F1," said the Frenchman. "For the team, we are building up every single department and I think he will be very supportive in the process.
"I think from aero to design office to track engineering, tyre management, I think everybody in the team is more than welcome to have Kimi on board in the future. It’s a step forward for us for sure.
"This is on the technical side and on the marketing and commercial side, for sure it’s a huge push and if you have a look at what we had last week in terms of social media – so it was probably the first time in our lives that we have so many connections. On both sides, I think it will be supportive for us.
"I was not there [when he previously raced for Sauber] but some guys came to my office saying ‘ah, superb that Kimi’s back.’ But I don’t want to consider the fact that Kimi’s coming back, we have to think about the future, not about the past."
Raikkonen's next teammate is still yet to be confirmed, as it is unclear whether Sauber will retain Marcus Ericsson. The team's backers have links to Ericsson but it is believed that Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi is in contention.
"The last two weeks for me have been a bit of a rush on the driver market," Vasseur said. "After Singapore we will sit down with all the persons involved in the discussions and we will take a decision quite soon because I think it’s also good for the team to have a clear answer but it will be soon."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing