DOES THE ICEMAN GOETH? F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen (above) is likely to be ousted by Ferrari after poor performances but who would replace him?. Image: AP / Alexander F Yuan
ROME, Italy - Kimi Raikkonen's exit from Ferrari and Formula 1 is "all but sealed", the influential Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported.
Correspondent Luigi Perna has claimed ahead of the British GP: "Only a sensational breakthrough can avert his farewell."
That despite, as the results of a Grand Prix Drivers' Association global fan survey emerged, the Finn is seen as the most popular driver on the grid.
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Next best were Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button; Lewis Hamilton was not even in the top three.
However, while Raikkonen would cost Ferrari much more money than turning to one of the alternatives, David Coulthard told Speed Week: "If I had to choose, I would take one of the younger guys. Raikkonen is valuable marketing-wise but that's only one aspect. The best marketing is victory.
The former McLaren driver-turned-TV pundit said: "Kimi is so popular with fans, even to the point that anybody who criticises him risks being hated, but in recent years he has not performed as expected, whether because of bad luck or something else."
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La Gazzetta claims Raikkonen's countryman Valtteri Bottas was first in line for Raikkonen's seat but the specialist German publication Sport Bild believed a deal was unlikely because Williams may already have triggered a 2016 option in Bottas' contract while reportedly putting the price of a buyout by Ferrari at a whopping $20-million - close to R246-million.
Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, has been making overtures for a switch from Red Bull but team adviser Helmut Marko insists the smiling Australian is going nowhere. "I know Ferrari wants him," Marko said, "but there is no chance. His contract is watertight."
The third main candidate is Nico Hulkenberg, who agrees his recent Le Mans win put him back in the spotlight.
"I've proved I can win with a top car," the German said. "People who doubted I could maybe have less doubt now."Stay with Wheels24 for Live updates from the 2015 British Grand Prix.