Ferrari did not decide to retain Kimi Raikkonen for 2016 because he is cheap and popular, boss Maurizio Arrivabene insists.
There was a round of surprise recently when the Maranello team re-signed the 35-year-old Finn, amid strong rumours that had linked Valtteri Bottas and others with the seat.
Team chief Arrivabene, formerly a marketing executive for Marlboro, acknowledges that Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, is widely popular.
“The GPDA did a very serious and careful research about which drivers are most appreciated by fans, and Kimi was the first,” said the Italian.
“It is obvious that we did not confirm him for this reason, nor because he has blue eyes and blonde hair. We renewed with him because when you are putting together a young team, you need to find the right balance.
“Kimi is a champion and he goes along very well with Seb (Vettel), giving a great contribution to the development of the team,” Arrivabene explained.
However, it has also been suggested that Ferrari insisted Raikkonen lower his wage demands for 2016, under the eye of the notoriously efficient new president Sergio Marchionne.
But Arrivabene denies that Raikkonen is now a ‘low cost driver’.
“There are low cost flights,” he said, “but I have not seen many low-cost drivers at a certain level. And that applies to footballers, drivers or more generally a top athlete in any discipline.” (GMM)