Kovalainen to stand in for Raikkonen in final races

2013 F1 season

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Heikki Kovalainen will make his first F1 start in almost 12 months as a substitute for Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus this weekend.

Kovalainen, who lost his seat at Caterham at the end of last year, will also race for the team in the Brazilian Grand Prix next week. He has continued to drive for Caterham in practice sessions this year making a total of six appearances.

The news is a blow for Lotus’s third driver Davide Valsecchi, who has tested for the team twice this year but has been passed over for the drive.

Team principal Eric Boullier said they faced a “difficult decision” over who should substitute for Raikkonen.

“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 as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible.

“We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”

Kovalainen also added his thanks to Fernandes and said his return to racing with Lotus was a “fantastic opportunity”.

“We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible,” he said.

“Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge, but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed.”

Caterham team principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “We are pleased that we can help to give him the chance to race again in 2013.”

“He is a valued member of the Caterham family and we’re sure that he’ll do a good job in the USA and Brazil.”

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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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102 comments on “Kovalainen to stand in for Raikkonen in final races”

  1. A real shame, as Lotus could have used this opportunity to give a talented rookie some F1 experience. Kovalainen will never amount to anything special.

    1. But they need someone with recent experience, which Heikki has. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he also has a serious point to prove.

      People seem to forget this. They’re still facing some stiff competition in the constructors championship!

      1. Yes, but they also know exactly what Kovalainen is capable of, which is not a lot. They need big results to grab second or even third overall, not the sort of lower-points consistency that Kovalainen will deliver. A rookie would be a big risk but could carry a big payoff – let’s not forget that it is overwhelmingly likely that Lotus will be fourth whatever happens. Why not go for glory?

        1. I don’t think that’s fair.

          Everyone looks at his time with McLaren. I get the impression he was still finding his feet in his career.

          He put in some real decent performances for Caterham and grew as a driver, in my opinion.

          It’s still not an ideal opportunity for him as he’s had no prep time, but, it’s still a good one. It’s a decent car, and if he can finish ahead of Grosjean, I think it’ll open a few people’s eyes in the paddock and open up the chance of a drive for 2014.

          If he underperforms, however, I think it may be curtain for his F1 career.

          We’ll see!

          1. Was he that good in his Caterham years? He couldn’t upstage Petrov in either qualifying or the races, merely matching him. And we all know how mediocre Petrov was.

          2. Heikki wasn’t exactly slow in 2008 against Lewis… think about it…

            LH had been their the year before, performed super well, had McLaren support from a very early age. Heikki came over from the Renault program, had to assimilate quickly, and didn’t do too bad against the 2008 world champion. Both drivers had an awful car in the MP4-24 of 2009… LH definitely seemed to manage the car better that year.

            I always thought Heikki had a lot of potential. He is seasoned, he’s raced at COTA (which is not an easy track, even on a simulator), and he’s a mature driver.

            Valsecchi will get his chance.

          3. ‘I think it’ll open a few people’s eyes in the paddock and open up the chance of a drive for 2014.’

            That’s great for Kovaleinen, but is it great for Lotus?

        2. Because they won’t get glory with Valsecchi. He is extremely talented and a great test driver but it takes time to acclimatise to driving F1 cars in race conditions. Heikki’s experience is worth its weight in gold and even though I agree with you that he may only pull in probably minor-moderate points, it’s points they definitely wouldn’t score with Valsecchi. He would just get lost in the pack

        3. they also know exactly what Kovalainen is capable of, which is not a lot.

          Well, the last time he was driving for the same team, he outperformed his team mate and got rewarded with McLaren drive. After that he had two unsuccessful years at McLaren and after that three successful years at Lotus/Caterham.

          There are ups and downs in every driver’s career. If you are saying that Kovalainen is hopeless just because he didn’t perform well at McLaren in 2008 and 2009 then by the same logic I could say that Mercedes should throw Hamilton out because he was clearly underperforming in 2011.

          1. maybe Kovaleinen will qualify high and have 2 great races, and prove Raikonnen is not the driver he was in 2002-2005 as a megastar at McLaren. raikonnen has been mediocre the second half of this season, so kovaleinen cant do much worse.

          2. He didn’t do well in 2007, 2010, 2011or 2012 either. He’s a two-bit driver.

          3. @girts Fortunately, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that Kovalainen has never proven himself to be anything other than a reliable rear-gunner, someone to bring home decent if unspectacular points. That has run through his entire F1 career and is not simply based on his time at McLaren. That level of performance is substantially less than Lotus need from their second driver if they are to have any chance whatsoever of claiming third or second place in the WCC this year. However slim a chance it is that Valsecchi could deliver that, it is – to my mind – a better bet than the certainty that Kovalainen won’t.

          4. Yeah, Hamilton only won three times in 2011. What a terrible season…

          5. @kpcart
            If that turns out to be the case, this would mean Grosjean is even worse than Chilton or Gutierezz.

    2. +1. I know there isn’t much difference between Kovalainen and Kobayashi, but I really think the latter has better recent results at, at least, the Brazilian GP.

    3. @red-andy Valsecci would’ve failed to gain much with 2 races and in such a short time. No testing, two new tracks for him too, I don’t see him being a reasonable option for a substitute. Regardless of talent, it’s just too much to bear debuting in F1 with everything against you.

      Heikki is a safer and better bet.

    4. I agree @red-andy, is a shame a “reserve driver” didn´t got the chance. It´s made the hold roll a joke

    5. Remember Monza in 2012? D’Ambrosio had a chance and did not help the team much? From a risk management perspective, Kovalainen is a much better solution if the goal is to maximize point scoring.

    6. Glad to see Heikki get a drive but it makes a mockery of the “reserve driver” title.

    7. @red-andy I agree, Heikki had chances aplenty and now another one, I can’t see why not go for the money or the prospect, they just chose someone to fill the boots a name on the finishing list.

  2. Awesome, I wanted to see Kovalainen back. As said, definitely a blow for Valsecchi, but for Lotus this definitely makes more sense.

    1. Yeh, it’s definitely the logical choice. I know people want an exciting rookie, but that’s such a risk.

      It’ll often take them a few races to acclimatise – that’s something Lotus cannot afford.

    2. I cant help but think that the reason they chose to replace one Finnish driver with another Finnish driver is due to a contract with a Finnish company…

      1. @joshua-mess
        Which company are you talking about?

        1. Microsoft Nokia?

          1. Finlandia Vodka ;)

      2. Kimi doesn’t have Finnish sponsors i think, Valtteri has two (Kemppi and Wihuri). Finlandia Vodka is owned by the Americans, Nokia is owned by the Americans, politicians are owned by the Americans. Americans are owned by the Chinese.

        1. Microsoft only bought Lumia phones, not Nokia. Lotus doesn’t have Finnish sponsor. Heikki will do good, if not in Austin yet, but in Brasil yes.

        2. Kimi doesn’t have Finnish sponsors i think, Valtteri has two (Kemppi and Wihuri). Finlandia Vodka is owned by the Americans, Nokia is owned by the Americans, politicians are owned by the Americans. Americans are owned by the Chinese.

          Quote of the day. I’m tweeting that!

  3. Is he the first driver to drive for both Lotus and Lotus?

    Could be an amazing opportunity for him, in one of the most competitive cars he’s raced.
    (Can you add him to the Predictions game please!)
    No doubt other teams will be watching with interest – Force India and Sauber will have an embarrassment of riches to choose from for 2014.

    1. As opposed to the 2008 mclaren :)

    2. Is he the first driver to drive for both Lotus and Lotus?

      @bullfrog well, Valsecci tested for both !

    3. Well, not really is he @bullfrog. Petrov stood on the podium for Enstone/Lotus and then drove for Caterham

      1. Technically that was Renault and Caterham respectively! ;)

    4. That was my first thought @bullfrog, followed by the realisation that Keith had missed the chance to use the headline:

      “Former Lotus driver to make Lotus debut”

      1. Awesome :D

    5. @bullfrog You could even say he is the first driver to drive for two Lotus-Renaults.

  4. Michael Brown (@)
    14th November 2013, 14:00

    If in season testing was allowed, Valsecchi would have been able to race

    1. If Valsecchi impressed during testing. Don’t forget Ferrari chose to run Salo in 1999 after Schumacher’s accident, while Badoer was their test driver and drove for Minardi. Even BAR chose Salo (beforehand) while they had Boullion as a test driver.

  5. What is the point of teams even having reserve/third drivers anymore?

    1. they need a driver to throw to the media at all those times in between when the more valuable team members can’t be ****** to turn up, and they are fun to have at PR events.

      The advantage of one like Valsecchi is that he is reported to have brought the team somewhere between 6-12 million EUR too, so a very valuable team-member indeed. But not for his driving

      1. If he did bring that kind of money he should demand a refund.

    2. Maybe they work on the simulators ? I think only the top teams have drivers specifically for the simulators.

    3. Looks like a way to have someone you can send to promotional events(as your driver) when your actual drivers are busy or can’t be bothered.I’m sure other teams would have done the same.
      I’m very dissappointed with this but i guess its how it goes in Formula 1.

    4. $$$$$$$$$$

    5. Money, probably.

      1. This, Davide’s sponsors probably pay Lotus for that position (albeit not as much as a race seat would require).

    6. The whole position of a third driver is mostly a relic from the ages when the third drivers were still driving the cars. Nowadays it just seems like the 3rd driver is just there just in case the team doesn’t get anyone else to drive the car if one of the team drivers is not available. Valsecchi in this case would have probably been give the opportunity if a more experienced driver was not available.

      It is of course practically impossible for top teams to use 3rd drivers during weekends on the first practise sessions so the third driver position in the teams is very much about not driving the cars. That’s because even if the 3rd driver does good job with the car in 1st practise session of the weekend your race driver still loses important mileage.

    7. Well let’s make it clear what a 3rd driver is.
      He will follow the team to every race..When something happens to a race driver on the last minute (he falls in his hotel, he gets sick, big crash in FP1/2).. Then you have a sub from within ready to go.

      But when you have time to pick a replacement, you have better options outside your always there driver.
      And that’s what a 3rd driver is these days!

      1. @solidg
        Unless you’re Sauber, in which case your 3rd driver will be on a different continent when your driver falls ill, so you have to use someone elses :P

        1. Most likely the driver you sacked in the middle of the previous season.

      2. This. Valsecchi have been close to get seat at least twice during the year. He was preparing to drive when it was unsure if Kimi could drive in qualifying at Singapre. And then, he was told already that its likely that he drive at Abu Dhabi.

        Now Lotus got two weeks to find right guy to drive at Austin so of course they were looking other options too.

  6. I am happy for Kovalainen as he gets another short chance . I think Lotus wants solid results to compliment the current form of Grosjean and they think Heikki is reliable if not flashy . They don’t want another youngster binning the car trying too hard to impress. I still feel they can catch Ferrari . Mercedes getting third place depends on how they fare in this GP as well .

  7. When Heikki won the RaceOfChampions I was really excited for the start of his F1 career but it never really took off how I expected.

    At Renault he never had the best car, though for sure his McLarens were fast this is his best and possibly last chance to get into a car that is without doubt in the top3 cars on the grid.

    I hope he grabs this opportunity with both hands and gives his career a good kick start.

  8. Nice enough for Heikki, but I wonder if this means his odds at a seat at Caterham are either high or low enough to venture here. I doubt he’ll be close to Grosjean, since last time out, he was behind Petrov. Still, he should be able to score more points than Valsecchi.

    I do wonder if this was the fast option or the best option. Schumacher would have been sensational, but probably a hard fit and would harm his ties to Mercedes, while buying out Hulkenberg or Maldonado would be hard, since they have no money to begin with.

    Did anybody call Petrov or Heidfeld? That would have been fun.

    1. They’ve used Heidfeld before and that didn’t end too well if I recall correctly. Hulkenberg was blocked by Ferrari (reportedly), Schumacher said no and Maldonado probably has contractual issues with Williams (despite leaving already).
      I don’t think Caterham would have released him permanently (like Schumacher and Ferrari – even if that case is on a much larger scale). It’s just a legal requirement; I think he’s still in frame for a seat at Caterham next year, as long as he doesn’t screw this race up. This could be his make or break opportunity given his position at Caterham. If this doesn’t end well then it’s time for him to look at other racing series in my opinion.

  9. Ohhh my! As a Finnish guy who has always sympathized Heikki a little bit over Kimi, this is great news. Ever since his failed time at McLaren, which he himself has acknowledged of him being not prepared enough both mentally and physically, he has awaited for a chance to show what he’s capable of. This is finally THE chance, in a good car, and in a good team.

    It will be interesting to see if Heikki can accommodate to the car. I guess Lotus doesn’t have too much time to fix the car to his liking so Heikki more or less needs to drive with a car that suits Kimi.

    Anyway, this chance has been four years in waiting, so nothing can keep me from watching the remaining races!

    1. As a non-Finnish person, I am equally happy for Heikki :) Always liked Heikki, he’s a nice guy. It will be good to see him back on the grid, lets see what he can do.

    2. @mangroove
      Even if he impresses here though, surely it’s too late to find a drive for next season?

    3. @mangroove i’m not Finnish but i’m really happy for HK too! now it’s finally in his hands to show what he can do in F1 at a moment when the conditions and his preparation favor him!

  10. As a Finn I’m happy to see Heikki back and I hope he can put in some good performance for the two races. I think it’s the best choice for Lotus. He’s very motivated, has been keeping himself fit and been taking part in practice sessions this season.
    Taking a rookie would be risky for both the team and the rookie. Things didn’t exactly go well for Grosjean when he replaced Piquet Jr in the middle of the season, without any testing, and that could have been the end of his F1 career. He was lucky and got a second chance. For a rookie it’s best to start from the beginning of the year, taking part in winter testing before the season begins.

  11. It’s like Raikkonen’s a Finnish Timelord, and just regenerated into the Finnish Kovalainen.

  12. Of course Lotus are involved in a championship battle, what did they expect? Unless they had won the title in India every point would have been valuable, but in the last two races as much as during the rest of the season. And though I saw their reasoning with Heidfeld replacing Kubica, as it was over an entire season, I fail to see the point of having Valsecchi as a third driver and not using him for the final two races. Of course Kovalainen has experience, but he hasn’t shown incredible speed in his career and Valsecchi already tested with the team, in that car, and showed very positive signs. Kovalainen anyhow isn’t a better driver than Raikkonen, therefore Valsecchi could have done the job well, and maybe be prepared for a proper seat next year.
    Anyhow, best of luck to Heikki, I hope to see good races (probably his last ones, at least in a competitive car) and a good battle for 2nd in the title!

  13. For Lotus it might be the less risky option, but I have to wonder how much of a risk this is to Kovalainen. Just consider how Fisichella did at Ferrari even after racing for Force India almost the whole season. From qualifying first at Spa and finishing second in a Force India just barely behind Kimi’s Ferrari, to qualifying 14th at Monza and finishing 9th in a Ferrari.

  14. It was to be expected. After all, Kovalainen has driven for Lotus before, so he is well acquainted with the team name.

    1. Not just with the team name, but with the actual team, as he did his first F1 season with Enstone.

  15. “Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities …”

    If you had faith Eric, you would have given him the drive, no?

    1. Exactly. That statement is such a slap in the face for Davide, but I understand their decision in the end.

    2. If Valsechi would stop referring to himself in the 3rd person in interviews maybe people would take him a little more seriously.

  16. Eric Boullier has truly become the calimero of Formula one…

  17. I think he is a great driver and he will surprise us all with a podium finish.
    I said it first.

    1. agreed! HK has been training like a madman and dude’s never more motivated than when he gets a late-career lifeline back into the Show!

      HK to third in Austin! (people seem to forget he won a GP…)

      1. It sounds nice to put it like that, but as a Ferrari fan I will never accept that win as Heikki’s :/ ;)

  18. I sincerely hope Kova wins a race. He is a huge talent and a lovely guy. His time at McLaren was a poor indication of his ability do to the lack of confidence he was suffering from at the time, a lack of confidence which he admitted to afterwards. It takes a big person to do that.

    I hope he takes this opportunity with both hands and proves he deserves another chance in F1.

    1. Hard luck Kov winning a race. He couldn’t do it in a competitive Mclaren (except for Hungary), won’t do now in a Lotus. He is old new and rightly so, give a young driver a chance.

  19. Another talented racer out of Formula 1. Thanks, Lotus.

  20. As a die-hard Kimi fan i wish Kovy luck and hopefully Alan Permane won’t decide to scream at him at the end of the race.

    1. Btw what better way to replace the Iceman than to go and get the Fireman! Lol

  21. Everyone that wanted Heikki in and Grosjean out of Lotus at the end of last year got about 50% of their wishes fulfilled.

    1. The last bit after the blockquote is mine. Guess I forgot to close the link tag.

    2. I think it shows Ferrari think the Hulk is more of a threat ,

  22. Really? Why don’t these people know when to hang up there helmet in the top flight of Motorsport and concentrate on making a successful career in another category?

    He did nothing in the sport. All he has now is that he didn’t have the confidence or wasnt prepared when he had the opportunity in a quick car like mclaren. If my work was rubbish for 2 years and I came off with excuses like that I wold be out the door! You have to make the most of these chances. Look at what others have done in this case, vet and ham comes to mind. He just clearly doesn’t have that little bit extra that these guys have to have to be truly successful. So why not accept that instead Of driving round to make up numbers and stealing someone else younger chances of a good drive.

    At least mclaren are willing to give young talent a go.


    1. uhmmmm. Sergio Perez is only 23 and he’s out the door ?

  23. Well I’m very happy for Heikki, he’s got nothing to loose here. But I do feel a bit sad for Valsecchi, he must be thinking what is the point in being Lotus’s reserve-driver. I really hope he gets his chance some day.

  24. Kovalainen will do no better than Vallsechi or any other rookie would have done. Jumping in a new car half way through a season is a very difficult thing to do well. Just ask Pedro de La Rosa. Kovalainen is a second rate driver and everyone knows it, Lotus should have gone for the rookie.

  25. Would this be the longest gap between races for a driver at the same team (Brazil 07 to US 13 = 2219 days)?

    1. I say Gerhard Berger for Benetton.

      1. I think you’re right, closest I got was Frentzen for Sauber 1994/2003

      2. Of course! I was really trying to think of some but these two thrash Kovalainen’s gap. Thanks guys!

        1. Frentzen drove for Sauber up until 1996 of course, forgot that somehow! Good question though, was racking my brains for a while on that!

  26. valsecchi couldnt be considered an option under the given circumstances! people forget lotus wants/needs the points!!!
    and kovi wasnt that bad!
    on the other hand: i wished 3rd drivers had more time in the cars: one practice should be compulsory for third drivers!!!

  27. I would LOVE to see Heikki grab a couple of podiums out of this. There’s been a mini-Renaissance in talent over dollars in the last week or two and a couple of good results at short notice might benough for someone better than Caterham to take another look at KOV.

  28. The obvious choice. Fast and experienced. Hulkenberg for next year, COME ON LOTUS!

  29. Sensible choice. I’m really curious to see what he will do. Given the circumstances, I think that being in the top 10 in the race would be an achievement.

    Of course everyone wanted to see Valsecchi…but he has not raced in a year, last time he was in an F1 car was in July, he hasn’t raced in Austin and in Brazil. If you look at these facts the choice becomes obvious, in my opinion.

    Well, maybe they could have prepared Valsecchi a bit better, but I think they don’t care too much about him. They’ve never let him drive the car in free practice, he’s never been a contender for the 2014 seat and now this.

    I am italian and believe me when I say that I’d love to see an italian driver in F1, but Valsecchi is not the one.

    1. Valsecchi may not be a Vettel but he is better than a number of driver’s who are currently on the F1 grid (Chilton, Van Der Garde & Guttierez just to name three).

      If your Italian, man you will be waiting a long long time before (if ever) you see another Italian driver in F1. Valsecchi is the only Italian driver close to F1 and deserved a chance (for 2 races anyway).

      For the record I believe if Valsecchi was of a different Nationality he would be in F1.

  30. yawn
    bring 2014 on already

  31. Would be funny, if HK destroys Grosjean in the remaining races, and gets a seat along side Maldonado on expense of Grosjean for next year.

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