File picture: Lisi Niesner / Reuters.

Milan, Italy -  Kimi Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of the season in a swap with Sauber's Charles Leclerc, a 20-year-old Ferrari protege who made his debut with Sauber in 2018 after winning the 2017 Formula Two title.

"Scuderia Ferrari announces that, at the end of the 2018 season, Kimi Raikkonen will step down from his current role," Ferrari said, later also confirming Leclerc's arrival.

"During these years, Kimi's contribution to the team, both as a driver and on account of his human qualities, has been fundamental. He played a decisive role in the team's growth and was, at the same time, always a great team player."

"As a world champion for Scuderia Ferrari, he will always be part of the team’s history and family. We thank Kimi for all of this and wish him and his family a prosperous future."

20 wins

The 38-year-old Raikkonen has started 287 Grands Prix, winning 20 since his debut in 2001 with Sauber, the team he will race for again in 2019. He left Formula One two years after winning the 2007 world title with Ferrari and spent two years competing in the World Rally Championship, before returning to F1 with Lotus in 2012, and moving back to Ferrari in 2014.

He posted a message on Instagram announcing he would be rejoining Sauber on a two-year deal; he first drove for Sauber in 2001.

"Guess who’s back?! Next two years with @sauberf1team ahead! Feels extremely good to go back where it all began!" the 38-year-old told his 974 000 followers.

The move was later confirmed by Sauber

"The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team is delighted to announce that Kimi Räikkönen will join the team from 2019. The 2007 Formula One World Champion has signed for the next two seasons," Sauber confirmed.

"Signing Kimi Raikkonen as our driver represents an important pillar of our project, and brings us closer to our target of making significant progress as a team in the near future," said principal Frederic Vasseur.

"Kimi's undoubted talent and immense experience in Formula One will not only contribute to the development of our car, but will also accelerate the growth and development of our team as a whole."