SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium) • Kimi Raikkonen expressed his love for Ferrari after the Formula One team said the Finn would be staying with them next year in an unchanged line-up with Germany's Sebastian Vettel.
But it is believed that Raikkonen is merely warming the coveted seat for compatriot Valtteri Bottas, currently with Williams.
"What can I say... for me, to be able to stay another year at Ferrari means that the dream goes on," the 35-year-old - F1's oldest driver - told the team website after an announcement that caught the sport off guard.
"The Scuderia is my family, as I always said, it's here that I want to end my career. I am more committed than ever and I want to say thank you to the people who gave me this chance."
Raikkonen was set to be out of contract at the end of this season and facing an uncertain future. But a short statement from Maranello forced a rethink.
"Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen," the team said as the paddock regrouped in Spa-Francorchamps for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.
Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion who returned to Ferrari last year, had always made it clear he wanted to stay. But team principal Maurizio Arrivabene had been keeping his options open about one of the sport's highest-paid drivers.
"We believe that extending Kimi's contract into the next season will provide further stability to the team," said Arrivabene, with this announcement set to relieve Ferrari of unwanted hassle at next month's Italian Grand Prix.
"This (stability) has been our guideline, also considering the very good relationship between Kimi and Seb. On our side, this shows our great confidence in him and I expect this confidence to be well rewarded."
Still, the one-year extension has not changed F1 observers' view that Bottas - who had long been considered a frontrunner to replace Raikkonen - will eventually join Ferrari.
Italian media have already suggested Bottas has an agreement with Ferrari for 2017. That is when the 25-year-old will become a free agent. Had he joined the Italian outfit next season, it would have reportedly cost Ferrari £10 million (S$22 million).
Raikkonen, eclipsed by Spaniard Fernando Alonso at Ferrari last year, has been out-performed by Vettel this season, with the German scoring 160 points to the Finn's 76.
Four-time world champion Vettel, who moved from Red Bull at the end of last year, has already won two races for Ferrari while Raikkonen has not won since he was with Lotus in 2013.
The Finn, who can now look forward to his sixth year at Maranello after first joining from McLaren in 2007 and then being dropped at the end of 2009, has made just one podium this year when he finished second in Bahrain.
BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
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