Hamilton: It’s “crazy” Kovalainen hasn’t got a seat

2013 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says it’s “crazy” his former team mate Heikki Kovalainen has lost him place in Formula One.

Kovalainen was Hamilton’s team mate at McLaren in 2008 and 2009 before being replaced by Jenson Button.

He spent three years with Caterham (previously Lotus) but the team have a new driver line-up for 2013 of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.

Asked if Kovalainen was fast enough to deserve an F1 seat on merit Hamilton said: “Definitely”.

“It’s funny you mention that because the other day when I was coming here when I landed and I was driving to the track i was thinking to myself ‘it’s such a shame that Heikki’s not here’.

“And, definitely, some other people that now have seats, I think that whoever gave them the seat are crazy to think that they’re better than Heikki. I think Heikki’s got great calibre, great experience and deserves to be here.

“He’s a good friend of mine and I wish him all the best in whatever he’s doing.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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34 comments on “Hamilton: It’s “crazy” Kovalainen hasn’t got a seat”

  1. It is a shame. But he was told that the team needed a driver who was brining sponsors, so what did her do? He told his management not to look for sponsors. It wasn’t like they unceremoniously dumped him – he was aware of the requirements and made a decision that went against him.

    1. Fernandes is able to throw millions and millions of money into QPR. I don’t see why Fernandes could not have afforded Heikki or give him less wages than before.

      1. Why Should he? It’s not his responsibility to keep Heikki in a job. The fact remains, Heikki was told he needed to find sponsorship to keep his seat. He elected not to, so he can’t complain when they give the seat to someone else.

        1. If he wants to progress his team into the midfield, it makes more sense from Fernandes’ viewpoint to have an experienced driver to partner Charles Pic rather than bringing in a rookie

          1. Heikki has had three seasons to progress them to the midfield. If he hasn’t managed to help get them there yet, chances are he isn’t going to in future.

  2. I agree with Hamilton, and Heikki should get the second Force India seat; he has more than proved himself in the Lotus/Caterham for the past few years; outqualifying Jarno Trulli by almost 1 second per lap, and jarno is no slouch; far from it.

    1. By that logic, Vitaly Petrov should get the second Force India seat. After all, he was out-racing and out-qualifying Kovalainen by the end of the 2012 season.

      1. I get the point for quali, but it was really only the last 1/3 of the season that Petrov managed to wake up and out qualify him on a regular basis.

        But when it comes to the race, the Cater am was so unreliable that whoever’s car which managed to survive the race relitvely unscathed would be the one to finish first.

        1. And I suppose by that point Heikki had probably lost a lot of motivation as well; I cant think of a racing driver who wouldn’t.

  3. I think it is a shame that Kovalainen won’t be on the grid this year, he is a very solid and dependable driver.

    He performed well in his rookie season for Renault. Overall his time at McLaren wasn’t great, he started out well enough, but then by around Valencia and Spa he started to disappoint with a scrappy race in Belgium, not being able to even challenge Vettel for the win in Italy and generally not being able to match Hamilton. Things never really improved in 2009, with the only good races he had were China and he was going well in Monaco until he crashed.

    At Caterham he had shown himself to be a solid driver who nine times out of ten would bring the car home with a solid result. If Caterham do start challenging for points, it will be a shame that Kovalainen won’t be part of it.

    1. Agreed. Did really well with Renault, and in 2008 he had immense bad luck at pretty much every race weekend in the first half of the season. But, even as a big fan of him, I’m not sure he showed enough talent to be considered a future world champion.

      But it is indeed a big shame that Heikki and Timo won’t be scoring Caterham and Marussia’s first points, given how much they’ve done for the teams.

      1. But, to be honest, only Perez Hulkenberg Grosjean and Bottas appear to have the makings of a future champion; who else has captured F1 fans attention with regards to their massive talent?

        1. I reckon I’d add Kubica to that list if/when he gets back

  4. Caterham: “Heikki, we need payers, not drivers. You’re out!”

    1. Or, Alternatively…

      Caterham “Heikki, you need to find sponsorship in order to retain your seat.”
      Heikki: “No, I’m not going to bother finding sponsorship.”
      Caterham: “Bye then!”

    2. Drop Valencia!
      4th February 2013, 22:17

      To that team, $1M=.1sec per lap! That’s just reality. If he didn’t want to be a pay driver he should have kept his Mclaren job, he has had a better chance than most F1 drivers.

  5. For sure Heikki is a good driver but is he really that good that he is exempt from gathering sponsorship purely because of his talent? Vitaly Petrov isn’t the most highly rated driver yet he was competitive against Kovalinen towards the end of the season. I think this line from Hamilton; “He’s a good friend of mine and I wish him all the best in whatever he’s doing” highlights that his comments are biased – I don’t think it is at all crazy that the smaller teams are choosing money over dependability and refusal to garner sponsorship.

    1. Exactly. The moment Heikki point blank refused to look for sponsorship his days were numbered.

    2. Agreed. I’m just a little disappointed that the driver replacing him is van der garde and not someone like Petrov who would bring money, experience, and a good level of talent.

      1. Oh, I don’t like it any more than you do, but ultimately Heikki made his decision. You don’t get told “you need to find sponsorship to keep your seat” then tell your management not to look for any. That’s borderline arrogant.

    3. @vettel1

      Vitaly Petrov isn’t the most highly rated driver yet he was competitive against Kovalinen towards the end of the season.

      I think judging Kovalainen by his performance in the last half of 2012 doesn’t really do him any justice. Same goes for Glock. Both were unhappy with their cars, their place in the team, both were in a tense relationship with the teams’ management offices and both were aware of the fact that it was probably gonna be their last season in F1, by that point. This is the kind of situation that destroys your confidence and seriously affects your performance on track.

      Plus, people seem to forget speed is not the only asset drivers like Kovalainen or Glock bring to a team. There’s also a huge load of experience (and the level of consistency that comes with it), technical know-how, and valuable informational input they can bring into a team (especially if we’re talking about backmarkers or lower-midfield ones, that need to progress a whole amount and do it quickly). Plus, they are known quantities and they provide good reference points in terms of their cars’ performance etc. etc. etc.

      I don’t think it is at all crazy that the smaller teams are choosing money over dependability and refusal to garner sponsorship.

      I’m sorry but I’m gonna have to disagree here. It’s logical for drivers that have potential (and have shown this) to try and buy the opportunity to show that particular talent on track, if that opportunity doesn’t pop up by its own (see Perez or Bottas). It’s not logical for drivers that have 0 potential whatsoever to try and compensate that lack of skill through huge amounts of cash (see Chilton or Van Der Garde).

      This is proper motor racing, not Gumball 3000, for god’s sake…

    4. I agree with Heikki that it should be the teams job to gather sponsors. If Caterham want more money why dont they find the sponsors? It all goes to the same place in the end, are the drivers employed to drive or to be in charge of marketing?

  6. Sanity: It’s “crazy” Kovalainen, Kobayashi, Glock, Sutil, Alguersuari, Heidfeld hasn’t got a seat. Heikki is a victim, but not only one of the way too many. Meanwhile we’re facing a season with the most rookies appearing in ages, with 4 already confirmed, and another 2 rumoured for the remaining 2 seats. Rookies are always needed, they are the new blood, and I have nothing against it, they just need to prove that their talent is more significant than the depth of their pocket. My concern is, that drivers that proved themselves, delivered solid performances, are pretty much living the highlight of their career are simply elbowed out in favour of these rookies.
    and this brings the potential of damaging not only the expensive techniques, but also the image of F1, because the message now is something like this: “we are no longer the elite class, bring in your sh_tload of money, and you’re welcome, whatever you do on the track.”

    again: rookies are needed, i personally expect a lot from Bottas for example, but during the current financial circumstances, and in this kind of dumping they might be the right choice for the business (for the very survival?), but surely not the solution for the sport.

    1. I respectfully disagree. Fresh rookies have to be brought into the sport, pay-drivers or not, and show what they’ve got. Most of the drivers mentioned here had ample chance to demonstrate their talent, and have been found not to be championship-winning material. Excuse me, but I don’t think there should be a place for middling consistent drivers, or also-rans in Formula 1 – everybody on the grid should be a potential world champion in waiting and if he/she’s not, then please get out.

      I too dislike the pay-driver situation because it brings in a lot of sub-par drivers at the expense of better drivers in the lower formulas, but some of the pay-drivers have been good enough (Perez, Maldonado) and I have enough reason to believe that one of those will be world champion one day. Kovalainen won’t be. He’s been given a world championship-winning car and he wasn’t the one who won the championship. Fair enough, I’d cut him some slack, if (!) he lost by a bit, or due to a series of unfortunate circumstances. But no, he lost to Hamilton by a mile, did so again in 2009, and then dabbled with a very average driver Petrov last year.

      Same goes with Heidfeld – many years in very decent F1 cars, no wins, very average driving, years of taking up an F1 place that perhaps would’ve been better utilised by someone else. Alguersuari is not much different – yes, he had that ‘spark’ on occasion, but really didn’t outperform a very average Buemi, I never saw him on the podium or even nearby, and he had a fair share of years in F1.

      Formula 1 is a tough environment and should be, considering what’s happening in the lower formulas, karting, etc (a LOT of competition). Which is why I’m only in favour of guys like Webber and Massa leaving F1. If you’re not going to be world champion, you shouldn’t be in F1. If you come into F1 as a rookie, you must show your talent immediately (in 1 or 2 years). Vettel did, Maldonado did, Perez did. I don’t see why we shouldn’t expect the same of Kobayashi, Alguersuari, or Sutil. The only driver whose departure I lament is Glock, as he had shown enough talent in his Toyota times to warrant an albeit distant WDC chance given good car.

      1. Excuse me, but I don’t think there should be a place for middling consistent drivers, or also-rans in Formula 1 – everybody on the grid should be a potential world champion in waiting and if he/she’s not, then please get out.

        It’s virtually impossible to create a grid where everyone is World Championship material. I believe that the only drivers on the grid who aren’t champions who I can see being champions in the future are Rosberg and Hulkenberg. As much as I love Perez, he still has an erratic side to him which I think will cost him the chance to be champion unless he can transform himself into a more complete driver, same goes for the likes of Grosjean and Maldonado.

        I don’t believe that there no place for these “solid” drivers like Heidfeld, Glock, Sutil and Kobayashi. These guys aren’t consistent in the way Bruno Senna was in 2012, they would be consistent whilst being very quick, but they manage to do it in an unspectacular way.

        These days most rookies are slow in most races and usually two or three big performances enhances their reputation rapidly. Formula One wouldn’t be as good if it was only the front-runners being consistent throughout the season.

      2. thanks for the replay, i see your point. we seem to agree that refreshment is a natural and neccessary process in F1. we don’t seem to agree about the current quantity and quality of the newcomers, and the value of those that they replace, because it’s a very relative and subjective issue.

        i know you mentioned future and possible world champions, that there were about 750 F1 drivers since 1950, and only 33 of them became world champions at the end, not much more than the current size of the grid. of course newcomers must be given a chance to prove their worth, to show what they are made of, what they are capable of.

        the Kovalainen at McLaren example is fair enough. in Kovalainens defense, i would say that it was too early for him only in his 2nd season to drive for a top team, but now, after spending 3 hard years at Lotus/Caterham, i’m absolutley sure that he could do much better at a top team, but he might never experiencence driving in F1 again, not to mention a top team. Petrov got close to him for the end of the season last year, maybe had the upper hand, which could be explained by the changed relationship between the team and Kovalainen, however he clearly should have not blow out that much while hunting for a seat.

        i would compare Kovalainens McLaren years to Grosjeans Lotus season. the mistakes he made, the huge gap between him and Räikkönen on sundays, could also question his place, but noone questions it, but everybody would have been surprised if he would have been dropped.

        you mentioned Maldonado and Perez as the talented paydrivers. Maldonado has the raw speed and of course the talent, but it might take him years until he could be constantly quick. Perez is a different case. His driving style seems to be already mature, and grabbed a lot of points. But, do not forget, that he and the team could only take risks because of his relatively weaker qualifying performances, and for the end of the season, after signing his McLaren deal his performance (not only his results, and not only because of the car) dropped drastically. He scored 66 points, Kobayashi scored 60.
        Was the difference between Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi that significant, that the Mexican earned a two-year contract at one of the top teams, meanwhile the Japanese is not even worth occupying a race seat in Formula One? Does 6 points split a potential world champion and a reject?

        i truley believe that all the guys i mentioned showed their talent, as much as their car allowed, but that’s only my point of view.

        1. @andrewt

          after signing his McLaren deal his performance (not only his results, and not only because of the car) dropped drastically

          I think you might be reading a little bit too much into that. Perez might have gotten a little carried away at the Japanese Grand Prix – the first race after his McLaren contract was announced – but I don’t think his struggles were a result of over-confidence on his part. His retirement in Brazil was not his fault, as he got tangled up in the Vettel-Senna collision. In India, he was not the only victim of ultra-sensitive tyres that punctured at the slightest contact. Sauber generally struggled for pace in Korea and the United States, so the only incident you can really hold him accountable for was his retirement in Abu Dhabi. And even that could be explained by racing in a pack and not seeing other cars in his blind spot before you attribute it to over-confidece and/or desperation at falling short in the previous few races.

  7. It’s a great shame Heikki isn’t on the grid.

    I see it as a sign of intent from the Caterham team. You only need a driver of the calibre of Kovalainen
    if you’re going to be pushing into the midfield. If your spending the year going round & round just making up the numbers then you might as well hire a couple of cash cows.

  8. petebaldwin (@)
    4th February 2013, 21:22

    Put it this way, if you’re going for a driver who isn’t going to bring sponsors with him, there are faster drivers than Heikki sadly….

  9. He had agreat career got in a top team and back, next driver please

  10. A lot of people will certainly bemoan Kovalainen’s exit but the latter half of his 2012 season saw him develop a pessimistic attitude. As he became frustrated with his uncertain future in F1, his performance dropped and Vitaly Petrov (once criticized as a pay driver for ousting Trulli) began to outperform him. While it was definitely encouraging seeing his career “renaissance” at Caterham following the underwhelming McLaren stint, it’s time for Kovalainen to move on. The economic climate demands sponsorship and there are lots of younger drivers with greater marketing potential and sponsorship. Charles Pic proved himself against Glock, a driver of Kovalainen’s level, and with his Renault ties, is a natural fit with new Caterham director Cyril Abiteboul (formerly of Renault). As for van der Garde, he has a lot of experience in Formula 1, having tested for several teams. While Petrov’s presence would’ve been valuable in terms of experience and continuity, he was simply unable to muster the sponsorship from Sochi.

    As for the pay-driver debate, Kobayashi, Kovalainen, and Glock all had plenty of time to prove themselves- they all achieved podiums but simply weren’t good enough to retain their seats. Razia, Chilton, Gutierrez, and van der Garde have all been slammed as pay drivers, but it’s worth mentioning Perez, Maldonado, and even the legendary Niki Lauda began their careers with the pay driver label. Ultimately, their performances will guarantee whether or not they leave a pay driver’s legacy, but all achieved good results in GP2. And while 2012’s GP2 grid was criticized as uncompetitive, the quartet of “pay driver” rookies put in some strong performances- with Razia’s Valencian triumph being the most memorable. Of course, Gutierrez’s year was scrappy, but he still wound up in third. Chilton became the most-improved driver and began to win in the series. In van der Garde’s rookie year, he finished in front of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez. While none of these drivers have been hailed as the next Schumachers or Sennas of the sport, they still deserve a chance to prove whether or not they’ll end up successful or failed.

  11. Fernando Cruz
    5th February 2013, 11:10

    Peter Windsor talks about the waste of talent and money in the last F1 Racing magazine. I agree that drivers like Bruno Senna, Kamui Kobayashi, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock, Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi or Vitaly Petrov should have an alternative series outside F1 (it could be named GP1) to exploit their potential. At a time most of F1 teams struggle to find sponsors, money drivers can bring is what keeps F1 alive and it is a shame there are so many (all talented and most of them with big budgets) without a drive in F1. Windsor may be wrong about numbers (ex: he said Van Der Garde had about four times more sponsorship than Bruno Senna) but he is right when he suggests WEC or DTM are not the right series for so many talented, young and healthy drivers coming out of F1.

  12. “I think that whoever gave them the seat are crazy to think that they’re better than Heikki…”

    That’s the thing. They’re not better, but just better off.

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