How secret private jet chat led to Raikkonen's Sauber return

A secret chat in a private jet back in 2017 helped set in motion Kimi Raikkonen's move from Ferrari to Alfa Romeo last year, its team manager Beat Zehnder has revealed.

How secret private jet chat led to Raikkonen's Sauber return

Raikkonen made his F1 debut with Sauber back in 2001, but returned to the Swiss-based team - now under the Alfa Romeo brand - last year following five seasons with Ferrari.

It ensured a continuation of the 2007 F1 world champion's career, and is now likely to see Raikkonen break Rubens Barrichello's record for the most race starts this year.

In an interview with Motorsport.com as part of a series celebrating 50 years of Sauber in motorsport, long-serving team manager Zehnder revealed the first chat with Raikkonen over a return to Hinwil took place in the summer of 2017. 

"I was working on that for quite a long time," Zehnder told Motorsport.com.

"When he finished third at Silverstone in 2017 with Ferrari, he gave me a ride back in the private plane. Then we started talking about his future.

"I said: 'Listen, if you don't want to drive for Ferrari any more, or if they dismiss you, then please contact me. I will make it possible.

"We'll find a way, if you're interested and you're motivated to come back to Sauber.' We always had talks about this over the years."

Read Also:

Ferrari informed Raikkonen shortly before the Italian Grand Prix in 2018 that he would not be retained for 2019, his seat being taken by Charles Leclerc.

Raikkonen swiftly got in touch with Zehnder and Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur, who had a deal agreed within a matter of days.

"When at Monza in 2018 Ferrari decided that they're going to go for Charles, we had immediate contact," Zehnder said.

"We had a meeting which was the Tuesday after the race with Fred, Kimi, and myself.

"We basically did a contract within two hours. Well, a contract - we did an agreement, because Kimi doesn't read contracts!

"Through all the years, we had a very special connection. At the time of refuelling, we would always tell him how much fuel we had at the start, and would always have a very good connection to each other."

Zehnder said he could note how much Raikkonen had changed and grown in the 18 years between making his debut for Sauber and returning to the team.

"He always had a good feeling for the car. Now he knows what the change on the car, and he knows exactly how the car behaviour is changing when he does this and that on the car," said Zehnder.

"His technical overall view about the car is very, very good. And he is motivating and not sugar-coating things.

"If you have meetings and sometimes it is it the job of engineers to probably put things better than they are, and Kimi would say: 'No, no no, trust me, this way is not the right way, we have to go another direction'.

"He is very clear in his views."

 
shares
comments
My job in F1: The master of podium ceremonies
Previous article

My job in F1: The master of podium ceremonies

Next article

How Sauber twice saved itself from the brink of extinction

How Sauber twice saved itself from the brink of extinction
How Tyrrell’s post-Stewart era descended into a fight to survive Prime

How Tyrrell’s post-Stewart era descended into a fight to survive

Glory days for Tyrrell became increasingly infrequent
 after Jackie Stewart’s retirement. But in the latest instalment of his history of the team for Autosport's sister title GP Racing, 
MAURICE HAMILTON recalls how Ken Tyrrell’s plucky and defiantly small team stayed bold enough to innovate – springing a surprise with F1’s first six-wheeled car

How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future Prime

How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future

Multiple-title-winning designer and team boss Ross Brawn is finally leaving Formula 1 after nearly 50 years in motorsport. But he still has plenty of insights on what’s working and what comes next, as he revealed to Motorsport.com in a far-reaching exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi.

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2022
The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat Prime

The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat

OPINION: Mattia Binotto’s departure from Ferrari will naturally bring a range of changes across the Formula 1 team. But how the changes shape up and the impact they could have is set to be dictated by a key direction Ferrari’s top dogs will need to pick

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2022
The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants Prime

The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants

OPINION: Mercedes endured its worst season of the hybrid Formula 1 era, but was mercifully spared its first winless campaign in over a decade late on. It has owned up to the mistakes it made which led to its troubled W13. And while its task to return to title-challenging contention is not small, its 2022 season seems more like a blip than the beginning of a downward spiral.

Formula 1
Nov 29, 2022
The physical focus bringing out the best from Esteban Ocon Prime

The physical focus bringing out the best from Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon likes to point out he’s the first driver since Lewis Hamilton to emerge from a spell as Fernando Alonso’s teammate with a superior overall points record. While some may disagree, as LUKE SMITH discovered, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner reckons it’s not just luck which has made him France’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver of the moment…

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2022
How Red Bull's dynamic leader Mateschitz shaped its F1 philosophy Prime

How Red Bull's dynamic leader Mateschitz shaped its F1 philosophy

The death of Dietrich Mateschitz last month has not only deprived Red Bull of its visionary founder, it has shorn Formula 1 of one of its most influential benefactors. Mateschitz himself was famously media-shy, preferring to let the brand do the talking on his behalf. And, while it’s now normal to speak of Red Bull F1 titles and champions made, Mateschitz never assumed it would be easy or even possible – as ANTHONY ROWLINSON discovered during this previously unpublished interview from 2006…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2022
Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom? Prime

Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom?

OPINION: Teams that have dominated for long periods throughout Formula 1's history often take years to get back to the top of the tree once they've slipped down. But it remains to be seen whether the same will happen to Mercedes after a challenging 2022 season

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2022
What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi Prime

What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi

Arguably the favourite in the battle to finish second-best in 2022's Formula 1 standings, Sergio Perez's two-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi couldn't take him ahead of Charles Leclerc when the music stopped - and several key factors ultimately precluded him from the much-coveted runner-up spot.

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2022