MARANELLO, Italy, Dec 20- Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has admitted that 2018 is “probably” the last chance for Kimi Raikkonen to show his real potential.
Raikkonen returned to Ferrari in 2014 on the back of two brilliant seasons with Lotus F1, but he has failed to replicate that form at the Scuderia and he was first overshadowed by Fernando Alonso and now Sebastian Vettel.
This season, in particular, has seen him fall well short of Vettel as the German won five races and finished second in the Drivers’ standings while the Finn finished a distant fourth with no race wins.
Age is also no longer on his side as he is 38 and Marchionne says it is now or never for the veteran to hit top form.
“My personal opinion is that if we find the right key, Raikkonen drives like a God,” the Ferrari president said at the team’s pre-Christmas media dinner.
“But we need to find it. When things go right, it’s a pleasure to see him driving.
“In other moments it seems like he takes a break. He needs more consistency in terms of performance, but it’s important to find the right key to make him driving like in Monaco also on other circuits.
“Probably this is the last season to find the right key and we must do it.
“It would be a shame if he would leave F1 without showing his real potential.”
As for who could replace Raikkonen, Marchionne believes Ferrari Driver Academy member and F2 Champion Charles Leclerc is next in line. Leclerc will get his F1 chance next year with Sauber.
“We see Leclerc, [Red Bull’s Max] Verstappen and [Antonio] Giovinazzi, drivers with great skills, who can deliver a big change in the driver market,” he said. “I’m still happy to have chosen Leclerc.
“I think that if we cannot find the right key for Raikkonen, the choice will fall on a young driver.”