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Sauber release Räikkönen

Peter Sauber (left) has reluctantly agreed to let Räikkönen go

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland's Sauber racing team have officially agreed to release driver Kimi Räikkönen from his contract, following lengthy negotiations with rival Formula One team McLaren-Mercedes.

The talented young Finn is now set to join McLaren at the end of the current season as a replacement for double world champion Mika Hakkinen, who on Friday announced plans to take time off from the sport.

Räikkönen's transfer is likely to come as a personal blow to Peter Sauber who had to fight hard at the start of the season to get a Formula One licence for the 21-year-old driver. Although Räikkönen is now preparing to join one of the sport's biggest teams, less than 12 months ago he was considered by many to be too inexperienced.

The Sauber team's first pronouncement on the move came via their official website and suggested more than a little displeasure.

Futile

"If a driver is determined to leave for another team", the statement read, "it is futile to force him to stay. This was the main reason for releasing Kimi Räikkönen."

On his own website, Räikkönen thanked Sauber for their help in starting his Formula One career.

"From the very beginning Sauber made me feel very welcome and they are a great team," he said. "I might be leaving them at the end of the year but I will not forget them. I'm sure the friendships I have made at Sauber will last for a long time."

Räikkönen added that he would be doing all he could in the season's three remaining races to help Sauber hold on to fourth place in the constructors championship.

Compensation

Sauber are thought to have demanded major financial compensation in return for terminating Räikkönen's contract, which had been due to run until 2003. A Sauber spokeswoman told swissinfo on Friday that the Swiss team would not be disclosing the amount of money received from McLaren.

swissinfo


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