Alfa Romeo Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur says Kimi Raikkonen’s return to the Swiss squad is already having a positive impact on the team – starting on its social media channels.

After last week’s official announcement confirmed Raikkonen would rejoin Sauber in 2019 on a two-year deal, with Charles Leclerc being promoted from Sauber to Ferrari, Vasseur says the news has given a timely lift to all departments.

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Vasseur says one of the early impacts Raikkonen has had on the team was felt on social media with ‘so many connections’ with fans supporting the squad.

Before Raikkonen’s Sauber switch, an online petition set up by fans gathered over 25,000 signatures asking to keep the Finn in F1, while Raikkonen has proven a hit on social media despite joining less than one year ago.

“If you have a look at what we had last week in terms of social media, so it was probably the first time in our lives that we have so many connections,” Vasseur said. “On both sides, I think it will be supportive for us.”

While some members of the Swiss squad were at the team when he made his F1 debut in 2001, Vasseur sees the hiring of the Finn as another key development in the team’s future following a turbulent few years hampered by financial constraints before a buyout by Longbow Finance in 2016.

“I was not there [at Sauber in 2001] but some guys came to my office saying ‘ah, superb that Kimi’s back,’” he said. “But I don’t want to consider the fact that Kimi’s coming back that we have to think about the future, not about the past.

“We are building up every single department and I think he will be very supportive in the process. I think from aero to design office to track engineering, tyre management, I think everybody in the team is more than welcome to have Kimi on board in the future.

“It’s a step forward for us for sure. This is on the technical side and on the more marketing and commercial side, it’s a huge push.”

Sauber is yet to confirm its second driver alongside Raikkonen for the 2019 F1 season, with current driver Marcus Ericsson and reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi considered to be the front-runners for the race seat.

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