Sauber: No link between Raikkonen hiring and Ferrari partnership

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Sauber team boss Fred Vasseur insists the Swiss outfit's hiring of Kimi Raikkonen was decided independently from its technical partnership with Ferrari.

The Scuderia is believed to have the last word when it comes to filling at least one seat at Sauber, and indeed it is anticipated that Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi is the driver most likely to be paired with Raikkonen in 2019.

But the Finn will be moving to Hinwil on his and Sauber's terms, according to Vasseur.

"No, it has nothing to do with it," said the Frenchman, speaking to Neue Zurcher Zeitung.

"When Kimi realised that he would not be with Ferrari, he looked to the relationship that he already had with us.

"There was a phone call and then we met and, like me, Kimi likes to get straight to the point. It was a very, very fast deal. Less than four days," he added.

While Giovinazzi, who will be given a run in Friday's first free practice session this week in Sichi, has a strong chance of returning to the F1 grid next season, Vasseur isn't dismissing Marcus Ericsson's chances.

"It's a short list, that's right," he said. "We have been busy getting Kimi on board but this week we will take care of the second driver."

Vasseur admits that Raikkonen won't be racing among the front-runners in 2019, but he is confident Sauber can move up another notch in the midfield.

"Last year in Singapore we were five seconds behind, now it's just two. That's a huge leap in this sport," said Vasseur.

"The key for us was Alfa Romeo. Without them we would not have been able to get Raikkonen or the Ferrari technical director Simone de Resta.

"It was our step from a private team to a team associated with a manufacturer. Nevertheless, we will remain independent," he insisted.

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