Kovalainen: I was anticipating that it would be easier to come back and race competitively

Heikki Kovalainen's return to F1 was a flop

Heikki Kovalainen’s return to F1 was a flop

The tumultuous 2014 silly season is taking yet another twist, as Heikki Kovalainen’s hopes of returning full-time next year dipped dramatically after another below par performance for Lotus.

Mere days ago, the Finn was a powerful new player in the speculative hot-bed of the driver market — on the verge of signing for Caterham, and signed up by Lotus for the last two races of 2013 to replace Kimi Raikkonen.

But, despite some flashes of speed, just two races later, 32-year-old Kovalainen’s hopes are dwindling, after he failed to score a single point in the otherwise highly competitive black and gold Lotus.

“I think the car is great,” he said on Sunday, “but I was not able to unlock the pace. I was anticipating [that] it would be easier to come back and race competitively.”

Heikki Kovalainen during the Brazilian GP

Heikki Kovalainen during the Brazilian GP

“These two races were not the best,” he is quoted by Finland’s Turun Sanomat. “I knew it was a bit of a risk [replacing Raikkonen] but I did not think it would be so difficult.”

The Enstone based team therefore finishes the season only fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, millions in crucial prize-money behind its foes Mercedes and Ferrari.

The wilder reports had suggested that Kovalainen had became a late contender to race full-time for Lotus in 2014, but now even his hopes at Caterham appear to have faded.

Marcus Ericsson, a Swedish GP2 driver, smiled on Sunday as he refused to comment on growing paddock speculation that he will be racing a green car in 2014.

Caterham may now be looking for supplementary income, after finishing behind back-of-the-grid rival Marussia for the lucrative final spot in the top-ten paid positions in the Constructors’ Championship.

Lotus reserve Davide Valsecchi was aggrieved not to be chosen to replace Kimi Raikkonen

Lotus reserve Davide Valsecchi was aggrieved not to be chosen to replace Kimi Raikkonen

“At the moment I do not have an agreement [for 2014],” said Kovalainen. “I can only say that it’s looking good.

“Caterham is still the most likely option for me,” he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3. “Nothing has been signed yet, but I don’t think these two races with Lotus changes things too much.”

Disgruntled Lotus reserve driver Davide Valsecchi, meanwhile, thinks Austin and Brazil is evidence that Lotus made the wrong choice.

“I told the team it would have been better to choose my heart and my motivation than the experience of Kovalainen,” he said on Twitter. “I’m really sorry they didn’t do it.” (GMM)

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  • McLarenfan

    Heikki Kovalainen did a pretty good job I cant think of any stand in drivers who just got in to a car with no real practice and hit the glory spot. Others have had lots of testing and know the car inside out.

  • Spartacus

    +1 McLarenfan.

    With limited testing and the likes of Button and Alonso raising their game for a last Horray there wasn’t much Heikki could deliver.

  • TT

    Very sensible comments here, and I agree. Just look at Romain’s stand in last year at Monza, I think Heikki did better than him. And even more so by looking at Massa’s stand in’s in 2009, Kimi almost lapped them at their first stand in races

  • JV

    @McLarenfan;

    I don’t agree with you. Maybe nowaday’s F1 cars are more difficult to drive, but in 1999 Mika Salo did a decent job in Michael Schumachers car. Could have won the german GP if not for teamorders.

  • spornbot

    Heikki is no Kimi. Heikki is best suited for car development as he is not a good F1 racer.

  • Drift

    Looks like the Kovalainen-haters are crawling out of their holes…

  • Texas Roadhouse

    Considering the conditions in Brazil, and the differences between a Lotus and a Caterham F1 car – just the button procedures on the start-line alone – he did an OK job. Valsecchi’s responses, whilst understandable, were less than professional. There are times when it is better to keep quiet in public – Certainly, within the team, he should have expressed his opinion as forcefully as he liked, but not for all to hear.

  • Drift

    The conditions in Brazil is a good point.

    All the data Kovalainen gathered in the FP’s and the qualifying to set up the car for the race were in rainy conditions while the race day was almost completely dry.

  • McLarenfan

    @Drift: Agreed. @JV: as you said the cars are a lot harder now and all the buttons settings for diff launch clutches all wet weather weekend the car not set up for him Kimi took ages just to get the steering right, Hamilton still hasn’t got the brakes to how he likes them so give the guy a bit of credit at least he didn’t stick it in the wall or let Crashdonado near it.

  • Badman Jose

    Well I expected more from Kovalainen. After his so,so performance in Texas I was surprised that the powers at Lotus didn’t give test driver Valsecchi a real test under fire. Lotus missed
    a golden opportunity. Maybe that Dog Flavo made the correct call
    after all.

    Jose

  • Kimi4WDC

    @Drift

    And what other drivers did exactly, set up cars for dry in wet conditions? Don’t be silly, Heikki admitted it himself, he did not deliver as he expected.

    There is no such thing as development driver any more, none of those guys got an engineering degree, mechanic at best (Kimi :)).

    The best thing driver possibly can do to help, is feedback to various changes, that’s why natural talent is very important as those guys can feel and spot the differences without knowing what is happening exactly, which is engineer’s job.

  • matthew

    I don’t know guys, this is 2 disappointing results from kov. I like him, but I just don’t think he’s cut out for f1. Lotus chose him over their test driver that knows the car better, perhaps they were paying kov less then they would have had to pay their driver?

  • Red Bull Cheats

    Another stupid driver choice by Lotus.

  • Drift

    Kimi4WDC: The difference between “the other drivers” and Kovalainen is quite simple: They had about 17 more opportunities (i.e. races) to work on their set-ups….ever thought about that?

  • Drift

    Plus he didn’t say he thinks he didn’t deliver overall, but said that he messed up the start both in Austin and Interlagos and that this destroyed the races (as he wasn’t really used to the Lotus’ start procedure and got confused on having to press a different sequence of buttons than with the Caterham).

    Apart from that, he delivered some great performances both in Austin and Interlagos, finishing in the Top 10 in nearly all sessions, climbing as high as P4 and P5 among others.

    And even in the race, he managed to drive the 7th fastest lap overall.

    Many experts have acknowledged flashes of brilliance and huge performances, too, btw.

    For example, Niki Lauda called his 8th place in qualifying “a very good performance”.