Raikkonen is seldom seen in public without his shades - but his overall will again be red in 2018. File picture: Efrem Lukatsky / AP

Milan, Italy - Kimi Raikkonen will be racing for Ferrari again next season after the team announced on Tuesday a contract extension for 2018.

The popular 2007 world champion, who will be 38 in October, would have been out of contract at the end of 2017, with plenty of rivals eyeing up his seat at the sport's most successful and glamorous team.

Raikkonen has not won a race since he was at Lotus in 2013, and is currently fifth in a championship led by German team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who has won four of the season's 11 races to date.

Vettel will also be out of contract at the end of the season and the short Ferrari statement did not mention him. However, he is expected to remain once a longer and more lucrative deal has been hammered out.

Earlier than expected

The timing of Ferrari's statement was earlier than expected, since the team has often made such announcements at its home Italian round at Monza which follows on from this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix. It was also expected to confirm both drivers at the same time.

Vettel, a four times world champion with Red Bull, has also been linked in some media speculation to champion Mercedes where Finland's Valtteri Bottas has yet to be confirmed for 2018.

By opting to keep Raikkonen, Ferrari has gone for an experienced driver who is still quick and who will not rock the boat in what is likely to be his final season. He first raced for Ferrari between 2007-9 and then returned in 2014. He gets on well with Vettel, who is keen for him to stay, and Raikkonen has shown his loyalty this season by accepting team orders to his detriment. 

Track record

He has twice finished second behind Vettel, in Monaco and Hungary, while also taking third in Britain and Russia. He started from pole position in Monaco in May, his first appearance at the front of the grid since June 2008, and has a strong track record at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps where he has won four times.

His future was called into question in July, however, when Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne called him "a bit of a laggard".

"I think Kimi has got to show a higher level of commitment to the process," he had told reporters at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Marchionne has also emphasised that he wants Vettel to stay.

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