Jul.2 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Kimi Raikkonen’s exit from Ferrari and formula one is all but “sealed”, the influential Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport claims.

“Only a sensational breakthrough can avert his farewell” now, claimed correspondent Luigi Perna ahead of the British grand prix.

That is despite the fact that, as the results of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association’s global fan survey emerged, the ‘Iceman’ and Finn emerged as the most popular driver on the grid.

Next best were Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, with the polarising Lewis Hamilton not even in the top three.

But while Raikkonen would cost Ferrari much more money than turning to one of the alternatives, David Coulthard said this week: “If I had to choose, I would take one of the younger guys.

“Marketing-wise he (Raikkonen) is valuable, but that’s only one aspect. And the best marketing is victory,” the Scot is quoted by Speed Week.

“Kimi is so popular with the fans, to the point that anyone who criticises him risks being hated. But you have to say that in recent years, he has not performed as expected, whether it was due to bad luck or something else,” Coulthard added.

La Gazzetta claims Raikkonen’s countryman Valtteri Bottas is first in line for Raikkonen’s seat, but the specialist German publication Sport Bild says a deal is unlikely.

That is because Williams may already have triggered the 2016 ‘option’ in Bottas’ contract, while reportedly putting the price of a buyout by Ferrari at a whopping $20 million.

Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, has been making overtures of a potential switch from Red Bull, but Dr Helmut Marko insists the smiling Australian is going nowhere.

“I know that Ferrari wants to have him,” Marko said, “but there is no chance. His contract is watertight.”

The third main candidate is Nico Hulkenberg, who admits his recent Le Mans win has put him back in the spotlight.

“I’ve proved that I can win with a top car,” the German said. “People who doubted I could maybe have less doubt about that now.

“But I will have to see what options realistically open up for me in the coming weeks and months,” added Hulkenberg.

F1 legend Gerhard Berger told Sport Bild: “If things go right, he (Hulkenberg) has a chance with Ferrari.”