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Kovalainen to replace Raikkonen at Lotus for final two races
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Nov 2013   |  3:03 pm GMT  |  128 comments

Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen will replace Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the final two races of the season, starting with this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin.

Raikkonen, who will race for Ferrari next year, is unavailable to drive after choosing to undergo surgery for a recurring back problem.

For one-time race winner Kovalainen, 32, it marks a return to the team where he started his Formula 1 career, when the outfit were known at Renault.

It was important that Lotus signed a driver with Formula 1 experience as they are in a tight battle with Mercedes and Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship.

The team’s test driver Davide Valsecchi, who won last year’s GP2 championship, has driven the 2013 car twice this season, but his race weekend experience is limited to just one Friday practice session a couple of years ago.

Team boss Eric Boullier said, “Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo. On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki.

“Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable.”

Nico Hulkenberg, who is a contender for the full-time race seat next season, is understood to have turned down the seat, instead choosing to finish the season with Sauber. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher was also sounded out, but he too rejected the chance of a second comeback.

So the team turned to Kovalainen, with 110 starts and four podiums under his belt. The Finn made his debut in 2007, replacing Fernando Alonso at Renault before joining McLaren in 2008 where he claimed his one and only victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix.

He moved to Tony Fernandes’ Lotus Racing team in 2010, and though he lost his drive this season, he has taken part in a number of Friday practice sessions for the outfit now known as Caterham.

* Meanwhile McLaren has confirmed that Kevin Magnussen will drive alongside Jenson Button next season.

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Sadly, even with a good show I doubt this show will translate into a drive for Heikki in 2014.

Hope he makes the most of it and has some fun at two great events, even if he doesn't get paid.

...meanwhile, all is silent on the Quantum front. I think Kimi may have known all along that it's just a stalling tactic. Promises, promises...good call Kimi!


Kimi is no fool, Sebee. They told him to get out of the ... way, so he did.

I'm pretty sure he could have avoided colliding with a clumsy Caterham, if he'd really wanted.

Lotus are learning to their cost that the Kimster is a man of action and not words.


Agree. I think Kimi did what he needed to do to secure his Ferrari contract whilst remaining very loyal to Lotus (well above and beyond) only to be continually played by the management there. Perhaps Ferrari added a bonus to cover some of his lost earning this year if Kimi withdrew from the final two races. Who knows, but much better for him to have his operation early and get fully fit so he can hit the ground running on day 1 of his Ferrari gig.

As for Heikki - yes, I would do it for free too. It gives him a chance to raise his profile again in a reasonable car. There have been many drivers worthy of a decent seat but have been treated less than fairly and not given the opportunity. I would place Heikki firmly in that category. I hope something good comes out of it for him.


What's the point in having reserve drivers? When they are needed the most, then there's always one excuse or the other not to use them...


Many have been used. But some of the young ones are just decarations in deed.

In this case, fighting for a WCC position I hope you can understand the logic.

Oh boy, if Heikki "shows up" and nails a podium, it will be fantastic.


He isn't capable


I think you're right. He's a nice guy and a reasonable midfield driver but that's pretty much it. Didn't he win in a McLaren when the car ahead broke down ?

If he's that good how come Schumacher and Hulk were approached first ? He's effectively the third choice.

That said, hope he does well because whilst he's not championship material I think he's a solid scorer and deserves better than being in the back four.


The article states the David V has very limited race experience - just one Friday a couple of years ago. However, I believe he competed for the entire weekend in Italy last year while Roman served his penalty.


That was Jerome d'Ambrosio, the reserve driver then.

Davide was doing GP2 that weekend.


And furthermore Jerome didn't exactly set the world on fire there, which is why Lotus are going for the experienced driver rather than maybe making the same mistake again.


With one hand tied behind his back, he was never going to put the world on fire.

He didn't have KERS. In Monza that must be worth about 1 second a lap.


I'm sorry but what is the point of being reserve driver if you don't fill in on occasions like this?


In case there is a very last minute change like what nearly happened with Kimi last time, or Perez in Canada 2011 (although even then Sauber didn't use their reserve (not their fault though))


As Seebee points out in an earlier post - Lotus need every point they can grab for the constructor's title and the big money that attaches to that (if you haven't been following they are DESPERATE for money). So they need proven experience in the last two races. It's not a time to play the high stakes gamble. In my book they've done the right thing.


Great to see Kovi back in a race seat - What are the odds on seeing him on the 2014 grid with Caterham?


Im not a Kovalainen fan -- but I hope he wins both races.

The car is certainly good enough.


'The car is certainly good enough'

Yeah.... Oh apart from that guy in the Red Bull who's won the last 7 races. Just a hunch but I think the Red Bull might just be slightly stronger


"Im not a Kovalainen fan — but I hope he wins both races."

Sounds funny 🙂


Somehow I think Grosjean will smash kovalainen, no experience in the car will probably end heikki's F1 career.


Jeez - if Grosjean DOESN'T "smash" Kovalainen you would have to ask some serious questions about him. GRO has been in a race seat all year in a car he has helped develop and has been hauling points and podiums. KOV has been a test driver with very little mileage in a totally different car. The point here is that KOV is the best bet for Lotus to back up GRO and bag some points for the constructor's title.


Well I was just saying, BUT a good driver can just jump into a car and perform better than his team mate, just look at the backend of 2007 for Vettel in the Torro Rosso, alright he crashed in Fuji due to Hamilton's dodgy moves behind the safety car but he was still 3rd and was the fastest driver on track, a win was possible, also the race afterwards in China was 4th, then look at Schumacher's debut quali performance for Jordan in 1991, need I say anymore, but is Kovalainen of that calibre? NO, the only driver that was clearly beaten by Hamilton as a team mate and 1 I don't rate at all. Final point Kovalainen was/is not Lotus's best bet they tried to get Hulk into the car, they tried to get Schuey into the car and god knows who else they wanted, Grosjean will beat him so bad just like Raikkonen did to Fisichella at Ferrari in 2009 there will be no come backs, it'll make Caterham think twice about rehiring him.


Good for Kovi. But I still think David V. must have been given a chance. But I guess Lotus wants that third or second place badly in WCC.

It is rumored that Hulk's swithc to Lotus in the last two races was vetoed by Ferrari. Is that true? It is also rumored that Ferrari insisted Kimi to undergo surgery which perhaps he gladly obliged having his own issues with Lotus. How murky can Ferrari be? I like Kimi, but he playing such tricks with Ferrari does not look nice. However, Lotus have themselves to be blamed partly for this fiasco for the way they treated Kimi in India (and the whole year without paying). There was not even a public apology specifically to Kimi for that profanity (not considering the general one issued by Boullier).


If they wanted WCC badly, they would not have found them self in this situation.

This kind of sloppy management and lost them victories and destroying everything they were building on for past two years.

Darrin from Canada

Exactly... they have taken what was essentially the best chance for any team in the last few years to join the permanent front runners and fluffed it away. Crying shame, and more importantly a huge disservice to us loyal F1 fans (we just want competition). We want more than 1 operable car in F1. Doubt the management gets axed. Listen loud and CLEAR sponsors - I'm throwing out my supply of Dandruff shampoo. I've TOTALly had it. It would take more than a GENII to get me to root for you now.


I believe Valsecchi replaced Grosjean at Monza last year when the latter served his race ban.


According to official F1 records it was D'Ambrosio who raced at Monza.


Bit ridiculous this. I'm happy for Kovalainen, it's nice to see him back but not putting your reserve driver in is not only detrimental to the point of having one, it also can't be good for Valsecchi's confidence.

I'm thinking Hulkenberg will say his reason behind turning it down was out of loyalty to Sauber. I don't know why he would feel he'd need to be loyal to a team that he's not even been with for a year but I can see him maybe saying that.


He's looking for a race seat for next year.

He knows the Sauber well, knows its limits, and knows how to get the best out of it.

Say he goes to Lotus for two races and, for whatever reason, just can't get up to speed with how the Louts works and ends up doing badly in the final 2 races of the year. Career over.


Well good luck to Heikki. I hope he scores a few points.

Very disappointed in McLaren for potentially destroying young Checo's career. 1 lousy year in an underperforming car and they dump him. McLaren find themselves like 200 points behind the next best team. What could Checo have done to change that? I find it hard to believe that it ends like this for him. Such great potential.


Actually maybe they destroyed Perez AND Magnussen's careers in the same move, we'll see...


Kovalainen has the speed. In fact, he is about the same as Kimi in terms of raw speed. The big difference is that Kimi has the killer instinct. Kovalainen is too polite.

IMO, this is a very big opportunity for Kovalainen to comeback to the top. This could be his chance to secure a seat at Lotus. Looking at the competitive state of F1 these days, I reckon he should treat it like the one and only opportunity to impress.

His aim is not only match Grosjean but if possible, beat him! I know it is a big ask, but hey, how else can one impress? Oh and don't crash! Good luck mate...


Kova is not on the same planet as Kimi on raw speed. He's more at the Jenson Button level


Really? Jenson is far faster in the races.


Than kova not Kimi


FP2 is showing good results for Kovalainen. He is a great driver. Surprisingly, F1 fans here underrate him...


Kovalainen has the speed. He defeated Schumacher and Loeb in RoC. OK, that was once upon a time but one does not loose the natural talent of speed.

Anyway, Lets see what happens this weekend. Lets see if my speculation is right or not.


No offence but the word nonsense springs to mind.


Kovalainen has the speed? same as Raikkonen??? so you're saying Raikkonen would get smashed by Rosberg and Hamilton? Wrong.


It's a good opportunity for sure, but even if Heikki wins both races he still won't get a seat at Lotus - they're too busy eyeing the money that Maldonado will bring with him - but hopefully if he does well he'll score a seat somewhere else.


hope kovy goes well, nice guy and very good when he's on it.


Good to see Kovi back although its only for 2 races. I was surprised to see Schumacher being offered a drive, guess Lotus thought it would be a great marketing opportunity to have him back in the car for the last 2 races.

Hulk rejecting the drive could well be down to Sauber refusing to let him go. I sure hope he gets a drive next season.


JA, I assume with all of this talk about LF1 selling out not using Valsecchi for Austin and Interlagos, and McLaren being really brave picking Magnussen for 2014, you journos have all been doing the usual thorough job and double checking which deals have involved a load of cash changing hands?

I hear rumours that Magnusson has as much as £35M behind him. And that Perez's cash from Mexico never fully materialised. Let's not forget that 12 months ago everyone was saying how brave it was of McLaren to go with hard-charging young talent like PER. Their backing for that particular "young talent" doesn't appear to have been particularly medium-term, does it? It will be interesting to see how much they support him in 12 months time if he a) doesn't beat Button, or b) fails to deliver the promised cash. After all, you don't see a lot of 12C's on the roads....

As for LF1, Valsecchi had to pay for his 3rd drive, and you'd think that there were clauses in that contract. So taking Kovalainen, who surely doesn't have two brass farthings to rub together, coudl actually be costing Genii money; speculating to accumulate a championship bonues. Isn't that a sign of a focus on performance, at least for those two races?


I hope that Heikki can shine in the last two races, and give his carrer a bit of a boost. A nice guy ousted by pay drivers I understand.


You understand correctly. He was supposed to be the backbone of the Lotus/Caterham team, but the plan kind of went pear shaped.


Hurray! I am really glad for this guy!

I don't know why, but I am a somewhat of a fan of him. I was really disappointed with McLaren dropping him, but may be it his new chance!


Good for Heikki! I hope he will do well. Nice photo BTW.

Anyway, The first thing that crossed my mind is that the reserve/test driver format in how it is now is not working properly. Obviously :).

What is the point in being a reserve driver if when the opportunity comes up you will not drive?

Should be changed. But how?

1.I do not think more stress/work is possible on the current load the engineers and mechanics have.

2.Cost reduction is big issue so no more costs.

I also wonder if for Davide these 2 races would have been a career maker or breaker.


Good luck to Heikki! Likeable guy! Although a bit of an anti-climax... Heikki is a known quantity.

I hoped that Jaime Alguesuari was put in the seat... dont know if he even tried to get in.


So Hulkenberg and Schumacher refused to drive for free..?


Yeah - go figure! I used to have a soft spot for Renault/Lotus (even after Crashgate) but I have now realised that the soft spot developed into a wart and hardened so I have removed it. I would now much prefer to see the likes of Sauber and Williams climb back up the order and push Lotus back. I have lost all respect.


2014 grid is going to look very different.

I hope the new drivers will be allowed to make their mark on the sport.

My guess is Red Bulls are going to be even stronger in 2014 with Daniel Ricciardo suffering constant technical trouble.


Are you so anti-Vettel that in a post about Heikki in Lotus for two races you mentioned these conspiracy theory? Please, go on.


I was talking about change with new drivers like Heikki coming back but also wanted to put emphasis on how much of an impact the small changes will do.

I have more of an issue with RedBull, dont know why your bringing Vettel into this?


"My guess is Red Bulls are going to be even stronger in 2014 with Daniel Ricciardo suffering constant technical trouble"

That's a completely self-contravening statement and yet strangely it might be true 😉


Well Mark Webbers cars were built with about as much attention as a Primark shirt


I guess Heikki has his pot full and can afford to race for free.

The Spanish Inquisitor

So "reserve driver" is a decorative title.

And acording to JA, Lotus is very supple..... Je, Je,


Didn't their reserve driver JDB jump into the car last year at Monza in place of Grosjean? Or am I mistaken?

It'd be silly of them to put someone like Valsecchi in when they are competing for 2nd/3rd place in the's simply WAY too much money.


No, you're right on both counts.

Now if only they could get their strategy right during the actual races 😉


Good luck Heikki! Maybe he can beat Vettel. A chance to score his second win.


Congrats to Kova! He deserves it and hopefully he can get a good result.

That said, I would have LOVED it if Michael Schumacher had returned. He had a fantastic season last year despite the car constantly failing on him..I remember his qualifying lap at this race last year put him p5 on the grid come Sunday, and a cracking lap it was too!


Maybe it'll be like in 2009 : now the idea of coming back is growing in Schuey's mind, and in a few weeks he'll come back in er... in a Sauber to kick Vettel right in his


Hi James, any word on why Hulkenberg turned down the chance? Surely it might have improved his chances of the race seat for next year?


Actually, I think he HAD to turn it down to protect his value. If he is truly in contract negotiations for next year then why give them something for free? And it would be a gamble that might backfire if he has any issues with the team/car before the contract is signed. Lotus could just turn round and say "thanks for those two races but we've evaluated your performance and we'd like to give the seat to a driver that brings more sponsor money".


Curious to know.Did HK go for a seat fitting or is it strap-n-go in Kimi's custom seat? How fast can they churn out one at this eleventh hour notice?

My impression is that it will take weeks.Maybe two to go through design iterations to make it at least safe and comfortable for the driver to take the physical punishment on the track.


It's basically just a mold of their body.

That's simplifying it massively and it probably won't be perfect for him, but they should be able to build one pretty quickly.


Interesting that Hulk declined the opportunity. Not surprised that MS passed on it. I really do hope that Heikki scores some good points in the next two races!


Heikki will forever be the leading non-charismatic of F1.

Would be a turn up if he added a second race win for Lotus.


Great job Lotus!

It was a travesty when Kovalainen lost his drive, due, according to most observers, to the lack of funding he could bring to the team.

This is his first chance in a long time to get a competitive drive.

I expect that he will use it.

Biggest danger, just being too excited to be back in a potentially race-winning car; and potentially blowing his load early, off the start, to the end of the first lap.

This is a big chance for Kovalainen.

He is well within any theoretical advantage to slightness of size, for next year's formula.

Two dazzling results, definitively outscoring the benchmark of Grosjean, and Kovalainen could literally pay for his drive next year by brining in the prize money for overhauling Ferrari and potentially Mercedes.

Go Kovy, go!

I'll watch the race this weekend, after all.


I certainly hope he is not "too excited to be back", that by accident he prematurely evacuates his seat on the first lap.

Or was it his fuel load that he was in danger of blowing early?


Does this make Heikki the only driver to race fro 2 different teams with the same name????


I think we need goferet to tell us... 🙂


I just lit up the Goferet signal so any second now he should arrive in the Goferet-mobile....


...or maybe he took a wrong turn 🙁


Even as a Kimi fan and half-Finn, I'm disappointed that Lotus aren't going to let Valsecchi have a try.


Can't see Kovalainen doing anything, at least MSC would be high profile from a media point of view even if he isn't the driver he was, shame he turned it down. Should've gone the rookie route


As soon as Kimi announced he'd be going for the surgery I said this was the logical move to make, glad Lotus agreed with me!


but they did try and get Hulkenberg and Schumacher first, making Heiki their 3rd choice...


Well Hulk does kind of make sense since they want him to drive for them next season, but I'll admit Schumacher was a surprise. In truth I suspect they were talking to them all at the same time, this was a deal that had to be one quick.


Dang - why aren't you employed by them or another team as a strategist?


They couldn't afford me! 😉


Maybe he is 😉


I'm glad they hired another Finn to do the job! I hope he dazzles everybody. It's unlikely, but one can hope.

Go Heikki!


What's this? An Aussie replaces an Aussie at RB; and now a Finn replacing another Finn at Lotus.

Do they really think that F1 fans can't tell the difference between one helmeted driver from the other.

I'll be cheering for Barrichello at Williams. Or is that Massa? I'm getting confused.


Brilliant - it's so far fetched it could be very true.


Hang that logic when Vettel leaves RBR then Hulk is a shoe-in...I've decided I like your theory! 😀


Intresting they've decided that Heikki (who was often beaten by Petrov last year, and who looked very average on pace in FP1's earlier this year) is a better prospect than a GP2 champ who's been in the simulator all year, but there you go!

Can't wait to see Magnussen next year. I was stood at Copse on the first day of Silverstone testing this year and his commitment was noticable above all the other drivers. I was so impressed I took a few videos of him on my phone! Didn't bother with anyone else!

Tornillo Amarillo

HA-HA, IMO wrong decision by Lotus: they should have chosen VALSECCHI. Otherwise, what is the idea of having a reserve driver??

Who should replace RAIKKONEN early in 2014... if they need it? If there is a true back pain now...


Surgery went yesterday without complications

Tornillo Amarillo

Thanks, I would like to know which kind, some details or link. There are really different kinds of "back pain".


Colour me a conspiracy theorist but I can't help but feel that something smells here. Kimi han't beed paid this year for his contracted services to Lotus. Lotus are in a tight 3 way battle for 2nd place in the championship; 1 of the other contenders being Ferrari, the team to which Kimi moves next year.

Is Kimi just doing his best to give Lotus the shaft in this championship battle by opting out when Lotus needs him most? He's got grounds for feeling bitter and the back issue makes a plausible legal arguement for failing to fulfil his contract terms.



Ummm, what contract? Surely that was torn up when Lotus failed to pay Kimi. All other clauses instantly become null and void! Cool move by Kimi, I say. Oh, and what colour is a conspiracy theorist? I will get the paint. I agree, I think Ferrari might have sweetened Kimi's contract by covering some of his lost pay this year NOT to drive for Lotus in the final 2 races.


"what colour is a conspiracy theorist?"

Depends how many computer screens they're looking at at any given time 😉


Problems with Lotus notwithstanding, Kimi has little more to gain this year by racing the last two races and much more to gain in the long run by getting surgery asap. If that also helps Ferrari beat Lotus in the WCC, that is just gravy on top for him next year.


DV should have got the seat for the final two GP. It doesnt matter financially, with Kimi out they dont have a prayer of catching Ferrari or Mercedes now. No driver can get up to speed and deliver podiums after a year out and driving a totally different car.

At least Davide was familiar with the team, the steering wheel, the processes during the race weekend etc. Plus he deserved a chance having been GP2 champ in 2012.

What's the purpose of having a reserve driver if when needed, the team call on somebody else?


Obviously the best choice,they could make. He will normally berelatively quick out of the box, and wont need much time to,adapt to his new team. Also,a very good chance for him to show what he is worth, cause his challenge will be to score points, even big points when possible. He if manages to do that, it will do him good in his quest for a race drive next season. A clever move from both sides. I would have loved to see Michael coming back once again to have further ground to assess his abilities to adapt and be quick, though


At least Lotus won;t have to paint a new flag on the side of the car, and will be able to use up their bulk purchase of letters "k" and "n". ;_)


Yes, when Finns are around, a good supply of k's and n's is essential.


Cost-cutting taken to extremes lol 🙂


Good move - Heikki knows that this is his final shot. He knows he was too conservative at McLaren and will at least give it a real go. I have a feeling he might impress over the coming weeks. I certainly hope so.


Hi James,

Any truth to the rumor that Ferrari paid Hulkenberg to NOT drive for Renault?

See link:


Err....Lotus I mean...


Meh, same diff.


Heikki Kovalainen 3rd choice for this drive (that we know off), used to drive for 2 big teams, doesn't anymore. Don't expect big things boys and girls.


Great to see kov back thought he did an outstanding job at caterham at times


Looks like cyborg on this picture, doesn't he? 🙂


*knock knock*

Do you know a...forget it, too predictable 😉


Will be good to see how he does. Good luck to Heikki.

I just love the Rumour that Ferrari paid nico's outstanding salary to block him driving for lotus. The twists and turns of the driver moves are so much more entertaining than the racing recently.


Can they pay Kimi's salary for this year as well?


Good for him! Now, 1 or 4 time winner 😉


F1 could have sorely done with a Schumacher cameo to spice these non-championship races. It would also be poetic to have seen him truly end his career where it all began at Enstone (brief spell at Jordan excluded).

I guess Bernie was too tied up with his court case to make it happen.


This is all good but this highlights again the plight of third/test drivers in F1. From the team's point of view, it is understandable that they want to get maximum points in the next two races.

There is no guarantee that Heikki will score any points as he is a bit rusty. But the team clearly showed they don't have enough faith in a young driver which is not very good for Davide's future.


What are the chances of Kovi getting a podium in those 2 races, if he can adapt quickly..... what would happen then.....?


what would happen then? He'd be given some Champagne by the race organizers and get to speak to whoever is doing the podium interview, as per usual protocol 🙂


Surprised that you did not have a reply to @31 and the potential load issues.

Thread the Needle

What a chance to kick start his career again, hopefully he can take it


"110 starts and four podiums"

I know he had a tough time at McLaren, but that's worse than I remember; one of those podiums was for Renault too...


Hamilton and Massa had problems that race. Massa was cruising to the win before his engine quenched. Kova never won a race on actual merit at Macca


And his win came after Massa retired from the lead!


That's called racing.


great news for Heikki to show he still has it. bad news for him if he doesn't.


I can't believe they actually asked Schumacher to fill Kimis seat! If they can't afford to pay their lead driver for an entire season what on earth makes them think they can hire the 7x world champion?


Gross optimism 😉


Good luck to him. Good driver, deserves a seat on the grid somewhere.


Lewis has always been close to Nico


Did Ferrari know about this operation when they signed Kimi ? All sports have medical fitnees clauses that trump any other clause ? What happens if from the medical point he is not 100 % well after this intervention ? Formula 1 is contradictory ,on one side high tech , on the other side management with very low standards, with one or two exceptions, RBR having the best of both worlds.


Quite interesting to see Heki do so well all things considered, what's the bets with the new team funding and if he delivers well tomorrow and in Brazil that he gets offered a seat at Lotus??

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