Kimi Raikkonen F1 2019 deal already having impact on Sauber team
The benefits of Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Sauber for the 2019 Formula 1 season are already becoming apparent, says boss Fred Vasseur.
Having lost his Ferrari seat to Charles Leclerc, Raikkonen will next year rejoin the Sauber team that gave him his F1 debut in 2001.
Vasseur said news of Raikkonen’s arrival had an instant motivational impact.
"The reaction in the factory was huge," Vasseur told Autosport.
"It’s a huge push to consider that someone like Kimi could join the project, that he trusts the team, he trusts everybody in the team.
"It’s giving you self-confidence – ‘The guy in front of me, who is a world champion, is considering that I can do a good job, so full push.’
"I was in the design office when we issued internally the email saying that Kimi will join and the reaction was: ‘wow!’"
With Sauber’s Swiss base away from F1’s heartland, the team has often struggled to recruit personnel.
But its Alfa Romeo partnership and now Raikkonen are changing that.
"We already had the same push when Alfa joined," Vasseur said.
"Before this we were chasing CVs like hell, and then we received tons of CVs.
"I think it will be the same also with Kimi. This is important, recruiting. It’s not a matter of numbers, you need to find the right one.
"And if the paddock is convinced that we have a strong project we will receive many more CVs, and I think Kimi is part of the motivation.
"He will convince the guys in the paddock. If Kimi is able to join Sauber, he trusts the project, then everybody will do the same."
Raikkonen’s return is also likely to have commercial benefits for Sauber.
"The announcement of Kimi was a huge push also in terms of marketing," Vasseur added.
"We will discover the impact of Kimi’s situation week after week.
"On the grid he’ll be with one of the three world champions next year, with Seb [Vettel] and Lewis [Hamilton], and he has a huge impact.
"We are receiving offers from every single area, from sponsors, it’s a very strange feeling.
"I probably even underestimated the impact. I’m not a big fan of social media, but it’s a huge thing."
Vasseur sees Raikkonen’s key role as helping to push the technical side.
"He has the reputation to be a very good technician, with very strong feedback," he said.
"Probably when you are 450 people it’s more important to have this kind of guy than when you are two or three times bigger.
"We need to have a strong leader on the driver side.
"He has very strong feedback, and he’s probably one of the best, or the best.
"Kimi was a bit unexpected 12 months ago, but 12 months ago we were absolutely nowhere.
"I couldn’t imagine that I will convince Kimi to join the team!
"But thanks to everybody in the company, because we made a good improvement, I think Kimi will enjoy racing with us."