By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) - Formula One's most experienced driver Kimi Raikkonen and Italian Antonio Giovinazzi will race on for Alfa Romeo next season, the Swiss-based team said on Friday.
Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion who is now 41, holds the records for most races entered (327) and started (324) by any driver in the history of the sport and is the oldest on the starting grid.
The Finn showed in Portugal last weekend that he still has the fighting spirit, overtaking 10 cars on the opening lap.
"Alfa Romeo... is more than a team to me, it is like a second family," Raikkonen, who started out with the team when they raced as Sauber and won his world championship with Ferrari, said in a statement.
"So many of the faces that were around me when I made my Formula One debut in 2001 are still here and the unique atmosphere of this team is what gives me that extra motivation to keep going in what will be my 19th season in the sport.
"I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in the team’s project and in what we feel we can achieve together. This is a team that values hard work over words and this fits well with my style."
Speaking to reporters at Imola ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the 'Iceman' said he had signed the extension only on Thursday and it had not been a difficult decision.
Giovinazzi, 26, will be entering his third season in Formula One next year.
The announcement by the Ferrari-powered team leaves Haas as the clear destination for Ferrari Academy driver Mick Schumacher.
The son of Ferrari great Michael is leading the Formula Two championship, while Britain's Callum Ilott is second, and Ferrari-powered Haas have two seats available.
One of them looks likely to go to Russian F2 driver Nikita Mazepin, whose billionaire father is keen to see his son in Formula One.
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto told reporters the decision would likely be made before the end of the Formula Two season, and recognised only one of the Academy drivers was likely to step up in 2001.
"I think it's something we may decide within the next couple of weeks," he said.
Alfa Romeo, a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler (FCA), announced on Thursday the continuation into 2021 of the carmaker's naming rights deal with Sauber.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Alison Williams/Peter Rutherford/Ken Ferris)