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Kovalainen: I’m in Lotus for two races, then plan to race for Caterham next year
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Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Nov 2013   |  10:07 pm GMT  |  62 comments

Heikki Kovalainen has appeared in the F1 paddock in Austin and spoken of his surprise and delight at being hired by Lotus for the final two races of the season, standing in for Kimi Raikkonen, who has gone for back surgery ahead of a move to Ferrari next season.

Kovalainen was only contacted on Tuesday evening UK time so the deal came together quickly, with the Finn able to spend Wednesday on the simulator and in the Lotus F1 factory having a seat fitting and getting up to speed with the technology on the Lotus car. He has done a number of Friday sessions with Caterham this season, most recently in Suzuka last month, so he is as well prepared as is possible under the circumstances.

He made it clear that he is racing for only two Grands Prix with Lotus, but that his plans for 2014 are to re-establish himself as one of the race drivers at Caterham.

“It was absolutely a surprise,” said Kovalainen. “I came home from the running track Tuesday evening and Eric Boullier rang me. I was interested but I’m contracted to Caterham so we had to get hold of them. Wth Tony the other side of the world it took a while to reach him and things got quite hectic. But it worked out, thanks to Tony.

“I was in England all day yesterday and we got a lot of stuff done (simulator etc) and we are in as good shape as possible to start the weekend. It’s fantastic to come back. I didn’t want to give up on the dream of racing in F1. So I stayed in Caterham even if it was only as a reserve driver and it was a good decision because the fact that I’ve done some Fridays was a big factor in Lotus hiring me.

“It’s only for two races. At the moment the plans for 2014 are still furthest with Caterham. After these two races the plan is still with Caterham and I’ve not spoken to anyone else.”

“The main thing is that this year I’ve been with Caterham and done some Friday sessions and I kept a reasonable feel for the tyres and the car and the general. I kept it up fairly well. I’m confident I can start the weekend straight away reasonably competitive and target a good result.”

Lotus are in a fight with Ferrari and Mercedes for second third and fourth places in the constructors championship. The have 297 points to Mercedes’ 334 and Ferrari’s 323, but at this stage of the season the Lotus is arguable the fastest car, certainly in race conditions. So there is a chance to beat Ferrari and maybe even Mercedes if results go their way. Each position in the table is worth around $10 million, so there’s a lot at stake.

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62 Comments
  1. David says:

    So did Raikkonen ever get paid? That’s my only remaining question for this F1 season.

    1. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

      My question would be…

      Did Kimi book an early flight home before he tried that shocking move into turn 1 on the Caterham? ;)

      It would be understandable. ;)

      1. Robert says:

        A VERY good question, really…had not considered that, as that is not his style – very much NOT his style. You are right, when the most consistent finisher in F1 makes a boneheaded turn into a backmarker, and then takes the next two races off, you have to really wonder how calculated it might be.

        And THAT could, if proven, cost Kimi dearly…

  2. Hudson says:

    I like Heikki, he is a likeable fellow. His 2 years at McLaren were disappointing, he failed to make the most use of a very good car. But I don’t think he belongs to the back-of-the-grid car like Caterham, he would do well in a Force India or so. The problem for him is that the competition is much tougher these days than during his McLaren days. I wish him all the best in Austin and Sao Paulo. Hope he can break his uneviable record of the most grand prix starts without a point (60 races he has done thus far without scoring).

    1. jakobusvdl says:

      Good post Hudson.
      Good luck to Hekki, hope his return to F1 is successful.
      If he does well Lotus will have the money to pay, first Kimi then Hekki.

    2. Gary says:

      Heiki has scored many points in F1, including on the podium. He also won a GP with McLaren.

      1. And, after P-2 at COTA in Texas he’s .02 up on RG, and about 4th fastest over-all so that just could reflect more than simply a lucky lap. Let’s not forget that he came to everyone’s attention back when he bested MS (well before his first retirement) at the Race of Champions and that led to Hekki’s F-1 drives. Just may be more than RG bargained for, suppose?

      2. Correction, 5th O/A behind SV; MW; Ros; and Hammy — and two positions ahead of RG on the charts.

  3. wes says:

    Back surgery, believe it if you want, but to me it sounds like footbol players that develop an injury as soon as they wages are late, like a famous Brazilian player once said, “they pretend to pay me and I pretend I’m playing for them”

    1. F1 Kitteh says:

      Heard from a reliable source that he hurt it when he fell off his bike playing badminton, so its real.

      1. Random 79 says:

        Well frankly if you do something silly like ride a bike while playing badminton you deserve what you get ;)

      2. RogerD says:

        FYI, bike-minton is a big sport in Finland.

        I think the real problem was that Kimi’s gorilla suit got caught in the bike chain :D

      3. sans soleil says:

        how does one play badminton on a bike ?

        anyway – i can understand kimi’s reasoning…why suffer if you’re not even being paid. at this point it makes more sense to ensure being in shape for next year…

      4. Ricardo says:

        You can understand kimi’s reasoning but you cannot understand a joke when you see one.

      5. Jota180 says:

        “how does one play badminton on a bike ?”

        Usually naked

      6. Athlander says:

        That was a joke.

      7. Jonathan says:

        you don’t! just like Juan Pablo Montoya wasn’t playing tennis and Webber didn’t admit to riding a bike… but it makes for a good comment when your tongue is firmly in cheek. I only hope F1 Kitteh doesn’t play badminton in such a fashion as it would stop the amusing comments!

      8. James says:

        Juan Pablo Montoya managed to play tennis on a bike once…

      9. Random 79 says:

        Hopefully the surgery goes well.

        If Kimi gets in really good shape he will be able to juggle while riding a bike while playing badminton naked.

  4. David Morton says:

    Good to see Heikki back in the game…..I hope he has a good result on Sunday.
    I wonder James, if him being a Finn was any part of the equation of hiring him for two races…..there would be some continuity with Kimi being a Finn etc. Of course his experience would be the main reason.

    1. James Allen says:

      No, I think it’s experience and particularly, recent F1 Friday practice experience that swung it

  5.  Coldy says:

    Heikki is “downed pilot”, decision to choose his is bad.

    1. Colin says:

      Rubbish. Heikki is quick. He missed out on a race seat this year due to a lack of funding, not a lack of talent.

    2. I know says:

      He wasn’t the first choice, and apart from the obvious reserve driver, who else could they have gone to? It had to be a driver with at least some recent experience on the current (2012-2013) tyres. Of course, I’m very skeptical about Kovalainen’s chances of scoring major points in the next two races, but Lotus were in a pretty bad position.

  6. Janne says:

    Yes, it was certainly because he is a Finn. Err… no. Most Finns have some interest on F1 but F1 does not have any interest on Finns. No oil, only 5 million people…

    1. Random 79 says:

      Yes but 5 million potential F1 drivers ;)

      1. Primum says:

        Ain’t that the truth.. Of 8 Finns to race in F1, 3 are world champions, four are race winners, six have taken podiums. Of the other two, Bottas qualified a Williams third in Canada and the other one holds the record for last F1 driver to drive with an open helmet and goggles. (but failed to finish the only race he started)

        The was another, but he never started a race.

        There can’t be another nation as consistently good at making F1 drivers.

        I always found it sad Heikki had such a poor time at McLaren, I hope he can surprise everyone and do wonderfully in the next two races.

      2. Robert says:

        I want to see him actually do well next year driving a Caterham on Sundays…he would be competing at the back of the field, but I want to see he and Bianchi go at it at the back of the field…two actually talented drivers (VDG has moments too) fighting it out in nearly equal cars will put some sort of excitement up and down the field.

      3. Primum says:

        Robert, Pic is in the other Caterham and he’s 0.655s slower than Alexander Rossi in first practice.

        That’s unbelievable.

  7. deancassady says:

    First of all: I am hoping that Heikki surprises doubters, big time, and gets, at least, a podium!
    Aim high, why not!?
    Look at this opportunity, for a guy who should have been driving all season.
    Go big, or stay home, Heikki. But, go big!
    I think he will surprise.
    But the pronouncement, this and then that, blah, blah, blah; I’m having a moment similar when groaning to the latest Lewis, or Jenson, utterings; just talk by driving; you are a lot better at that.

    1. deancassady says:

      I wonder what wheel base car he will be driving?!?

      1. Simmo says:

        Long I have heard

  8. jjpm says:

    James what do you think of this potential development for 2014 :

    In view of the recent driver’s announcements and concerning Lotus future and Quantum’s option disappearing in thin air the following
    happening :

    Pastore Maldonado replacing Kimi Raikkonen
    Davide Valsecchi/James Calado? replacing Romain Grosjean

    Grosjean’s move resulting from PDSA arrival with Pastore conflicting with Total sponsorship.
    Furthermore, Renault’s engine deal not yet signed.

    Romain Grosjean(ex Renault Sport’s test driver ) moving to Caterham already motorized by Renault with Cyril Abiteboul (ex-Renault Sport too) with Total as new Caterham’s sponsor and perhaps Eric Boullier himself following his driver to Caterham.

    1. Nigel says:

      Er, if their going to take Pasta’s oil money why not take Sergio’s Telmex money as well, and, come to think of it, Lopez has a certain Hispanic ring to it…

    2. I know says:

      Completely unrealistic this late in the season. Why would Eric Boullier now join a team that’s already designed the car for next season? Why would Renault and Total not want their best, French driver in their top team? Caterham have a very different approach to Lotus, and you cannot just transplant Boullier, Grosjean etc. from one team to the other.

      Total and PDVSA are both oil companies, but they are not competitors in any major market. I see no problem of joint sponsorship for Lotus, other than perhaps the fact that a major public company like Total would not want to co-sponsor a team with backing from the Venezuelan government – but that would be a question any major company has to deal with, and in the past, F1 has proven to be exceptional in this respect.

      1. jjpm says:

        I reckon the Boullier’s move is rather far fetched.
        As for Total and PDVSA I have no memory of two major similar brands having their name on the same car ever…

    3. MISTER says:

      That is the most random chain of events ever. This is why you need to be pretty sharp to get into this kind of business.

    4. Daniel says:

      I thought Cyril had left Caterham.

      Quantum money / deal reminds me of that Prince whats his face at arrows (think that was it)
      Money never materialised and he disappeared into the ether.

      KOV will do a good job IMO but doubt Lotus will get past mercs or Ferrari.

      1. k5enny says:

        Jos Verstappen??

        Damon Hill??

  9. Bryce says:

    Good luck to him. It will be the best car he has driven for several years! And gives him the chance to show his true ability.

  10. AuraF1 says:

    Someone get that man a vodka jelly and ice cream stat. Okay Heiki start practicing your ‘yes, yes, yes, all Finns know what we’re doing…’

    Actually he’ll be with his race engineer from McLaren days in Mark Slade won’t he? So that should make it an easier debut.

  11. Torchwood Five says:

    Eric Boullier [I]et al[/I] think it is okay to contract a driver and not pay them anything for a year, so compromised thinking is not that big a stretch for them.

    With that out of the way, I wonder if the idea of Davide Valsecchi being Italian, and Ferarri being widely considered within Italy as the national team, might have gone on the Con side of the Pros and Cons list of running him.

    Posters should remember that reserve drivers have stepped in to do testing and FP runs, when the main drivers have been unavailable, so it isn’t a complete waste of a position, though it is a shame Valsecchi was apparently not even considered for the drive.

    :) I am pleased to see Heikki back on the grid though. Clearly his staying in contact with Caterham, and being concerned for the team even after they got rid of him, has been positive for him.

    1. J.Danek says:

      Valsecchi could’ve learned something from Kovalainen (like how not to be a boor and make everyone at your current team hate you)…instead he shoots off his mouth like a bitter, self-righteous drunk, slagging off an actual GP winner while suggesting he couldve done better!!!

  12. fox says:

    Kovalainen: “I’m in Lotus for two races, not to be paid for.”

  13. p jones says:

    Good luck to him. Hope he has a good couple of races and can show how good he is.
    much overlooked driver

  14. Neshaen says:

    Fair play to Lotus for giving him the go ahead.
    Remember that this was done after contacting Hulk and Schumacher (dont know how true this is) who both declined.
    Hope to see Kovalainen score some good points.

  15. Kit says:

    Dear Heikki,

    Go get a podium or even a win. Throw the drivers’ market into further confusion. That would be fun.

    Anyway, in all seriousness, good luck and go get ‘em!

  16. iceman says:

    “Hiring” implies they are going to be paying him… I hope Heikki got cash up front.

  17. Jonathan says:

    I bet it didn’t take long for Tony Fernandes to agree! I wonder how much info the likeable Heiki can gather in the 2 races that can then help Caterham. This can only help them for next season.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Tony: Thanks for spying for us Heikki.
      Heikki: No probs Tony :)
      Tony: So, what did you learn?
      Heikki: A good team should always pay it’s star driver in full and on time. *wink wink*

    2. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

      …imagining him turning up, race suit on, helmet in one hand, 32GB racing green usb memory stick in the other.

      Hei lads, let me take a look at the telemetry on the computer… ;)

    3. dansus says:

      Plus the release of staff who were on gardening leave.. ;)

  18. TrueFinn says:

    Kimi IS injured. If you think anything else, please shut up as you are wrong. Why should he or anybody else risk their future health for an employer who is not paying as agreed? I hope Heikki gets payed in advance and Kimi gets his spinal problems fixed for next season. Of course, he is going to make Fernando look like the female soul he is. Just wait and enjoy!

  19. Richard says:

    I’m quite curious whether Heikki is able to keep up with Romain after one year of pretty much nothing.

  20. Truth or Lies says:

    After today’s showing Heikki might have more of a chance at the Lotus drive than he thought. It could be that Nico Hulkenburg has once again misread the situation.

    1. Mauseri says:

      I think Nico was afraid to take the chance. It would have closed the Sauber door behind him, and he has a good chance to get mid pack drive somewhere next year without the need to prove it with Lotus.

      If Heikki is up gunning for P2-P4 in the race, it will surely raise some questions about Romain and Kimi and how good the car actually is.

      1. Ryan Eckford says:

        And maybe that Alonso has generally lost little of his speed, and that Massa has lost little of his speed since his 2009 accident, and that there is the prospect of Alonso wiping the floor with Raikkonen. If this is the case, surely Ferrari (honourable mention to Lotus) must be the laughing stock of the Formula 1 pit-lane!

      2. Ryan Eckford says:

        PS.: And it could actually cost a good talent that is respected by all good judges in the Formula 1 pit-lane a permanent place on the 2014 grid. What a disgrace!!!

    2. J.Danek says:

      it was so nice to see Heikki drive respectably well today. :) In honor of him I’m changing the desktop background on my dual monitors to this amazing high-res image of Kova testing at Jerez in 2008 for McLaren:

      http://goo.gl/kZRXtV

    3. deancassady says:

      I think it is extremely likely that Hulkenberg knows more facts than you, and has a keener understanding of the mechanics and risks than you do.
      It looks to me like Hulkenberg made the right move.
      If Lotus get the money, they’ve already named him.
      If he got the drive for the final two races, he only has down side, no upside whatsoever.
      If their money fails to come through, he’s burned another bridge.
      If he goes, and likely gets trounced by Grosjean, due to familiarity and adaptation to new equipment delaying his full potential, he gets discredited; don’t forget, they’ve finally got the Sauber working; and while it does not seem a match for Lotus over the whole race, Hulkenberg is constantly threatening over the last several races, and any kind of random chance favouring him will likely result in a podium, who knows, maybe more.

  21. Howard P says:

    He deserves a better car than the Caterham.

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