Kovalainen accepts blame for point-less Lotus outings

2013 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Heikki Kovalainen said he was “upset” not to have helped Lotus score any points in his two races for the team in place of Kimi Raikkonen.

Kovalainen, who finished 14th in Brazil, said it had been “a great opportunity” to drive for the team.

“I’m upset that I was not able to score any points for them today,” he said. “I think the car is great, but I was not able to unlock the pace and make the most of it.”

Kovalainen admitted he hadn’t got the most out of the E21 in Brazil or America: “I made some mistakes – probably through lack of routine – but I was anticipating it would be easier to come back and race competitively.”

“My starts both here and in Austin were really poor, with procedural issues both times meaning I wasn’t able to keep pace with everyone off the line. That was disappointing as it’s such a big part of the race and it’s very difficult to recover positions.

“I’d like to thank everyone at Lotus F1 Team for all their support during these two races.”

Trackside operations director Alan Permane conceded “it was always going to be difficult for Heikki to climb back into the points” but said “we’re nonetheless disappointed to come away from this weekend with nothing on the board”.

Romain Grosjean retired early in the race with engine failure, meaning Lotus were unable to beat Ferrari to third in the constructors’ championship.

2013 Brazilian Grand Prix

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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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35 comments on “Kovalainen accepts blame for point-less Lotus outings”

  1. Big mistake by Lotus to let Kovalainen drive.

  2. Lotus look a bit stupid now, and I imagine Valsecchi is thoroughly ******.

    1. @vettel1 he just wrote on Twitter:

      “I told to @Lotus_F1Team that was better to choose my heart and my motivation than the experience of Kova. I’m really sorry they didn’t do it”

      1. @fer-no65 Talking is always easy, isn’t it?

        1. Especially AFTER the two events. I’d have respected him a lot more if he’d made a comment like that soon after Heiki was confirmed, instead it just looks like he wasn’t that confident in that belief.

          I think DV should have been put in the car too. But this comment from him disappoints me a little.

          1. He DID make comments like that after the announcement. Then no doubt Lotus PR had a word in his ear and he made a follow up rapproachment.

            Nonetheless, Valsecchi paid money for that third driver seat. I’d be highly annoyed if I were him and I’d consider pulling the money and taking it elsewhere.

          2. @silence, @gongtong
            sorry, guys, Davide was loudly upset from the start of that thing. He also commented the situation live on Sky, during weekend in Austin.

          3. As @hairs mention, Valsecchi did say so all along. Mentioning that it was the teams decision, but that he felt he would have been up to it.

    2. @vettel1
      I don’t think Lotus looks stupid unless you want to see it that way.

      With no in-season testing and peculiar tyres, Kovalainen was probably as good as any other option would’ve been. I don’t think Valsecchi had been able to perform any better and since Lotus isn’t going to promote him any time soon, granting experience for him isn’t that important.

      Some fans say “Lotus should’ve taken a risk” and put Valsecchi in a car and instead they took Heikki with whom “they knew what they got”. I don’t think that was the case at all. Lotus has been working with Valsecchi for some time and they probably know quite well what’s his potential (in a situation like this). Kovalainen was the risky wild card, who most likely wasn’t going to be phenomenal, but there was a chance his results could be excellent.

      And finally: Lotus finished 39 points behind Ferrari. To beat Ferrari, Räikkönen’s replacement should’ve been 3rd in USA and 2nd in Brazil. How likely is that?

      1. But Lotus was 26 points behind Ferrari before Kova’s two races. AND Grosjean was ahead of the Ferraris in 5 of the last 6 races. So, if Lotus have had a driver up to Romain´s level, it would have been as likely as the 4 podiums GRO got in the last 5 races before Brazil…

        1. @oscar
          Sure, but Lotus’ options didn’t include a driver, who could just hop in to the car and start performing on Romain’s level.

          1. We know Heikki couldn’t, but will never know if Davide could…

  3. Just shows how hard it is to step into a car for the first time and deliver. Specially if you’re switching teams, and even more if it’s been 3 years since you last fought for a meaninful position.

    His qualy at Austin was superb, tho, considering the little time he had on the car after being announced so late in the week and the fog that interrumpted friday practice. Maybe we’ll see him on the grid next year, but it’ll probably be in a Caterham or something like that, so don’t expecting much…

    1. Agreed. In 2009, Fisichella showed how difficult it is to suddenly jump into another car and to be on the pace immediately. Fisi had been superb in the Force India in Belgium, but could barely keep up with the pack in the Ferrari.

      I strongly doubt Valsecchi could have done any better.

      1. It looked like Kovalainen had decent speed over several laps when the car was set up well and he was just driving. Seems what gave him difficulties was protocols on the starts and managing the car and equipment over long runs. That and a bit of bad luck with the brake duct blockage at COTA. Overall, I don’t think he embarrassed himself at all considering the difficult circumstances he or anybody else faced stepping in on such short notice.

      2. Valsecchi could, I think. During the winter testing he must have tested the E21, so he would be more familiar with the car, the team and all procedures.

    2. pretty much that @fer-no65. We have seen it time and again in the last 5 years, its just so hard to get into a car and up to speed immediately. In quafiying, when all you have to do is run fast on low fuel, its about skill and being able to go for it. But in the race there is just so many things where familiarity with the car helps.

      I would guess that maybe Valsecchi would have had more trouble qualifying well, but maybe, maybe could have done relatively a solid job in the race, getting a point or 2, because he is more familiar with the car. But that is all speculation, and It wouldn’t have mattered much for the championship.

  4. I told you so. He did had some issues in Texas but this was the outcome to expect from anyone trying to fill that spot, perhaps a young naive driver could have had better results, that’s the reason why young drivers are sought for.

  5. I think Kovalainen is being a bit hard on himself he has been away for most of the season jumps in to a car almost no practice manages to drag it up in qualifying but last race problem after problem this race almost no running due to rain and monsoons,

  6. I like Heikki, but unfortunately Lotus should have a expected this, Heikki has always been a strong qualifier but he’s always seemed to lack the edge in a race. To be fair to him his race pace didn’t seem too bad but he got an awful start then was surrounded by cars at the first corner. I think it’s unfair for me to look into his two races with Lotus too much, as we’ve seen in the past, jumping into a car you’ve never driven can make or break your career.

  7. Refreshingly frank and honest self-appraisal by Heikki. I have always liked him.

    The thing is, we’ll never know whether Davide would’ve done any better.

    1. @magnificent-geoffrey Yep always easy to criticize, but now it’s too late and he can admit he was a bit below like a lot would … Afterwards, that also gives credit to Dambrosio for last year replacement of Grosjean in Italy and his race without kers.
      Normal from Valsecchi point of view, he couldn’t have done worse than no point and that would have reward him as reserve #1. But at the time Heikki was probably the sensible choice for Lotus’ championship, can’t really blame them for playing that card.

    2. Funny how it compares to DiResta who (again) blamed the team. I also found it refreshing to see Heikki mention that the car was fine, and he could see/feel why Kimi was doing well with it, it was good to drive, but he just didn’t manage to do everything right.

  8. Steph (@stephanief1990)
    24th November 2013, 20:37

    I don’t think Heikki should be so hard on himself. He hadn’t been racing in about a year, there’s zero testing, it’s a new car, it’s a new team, the tyres are very different this season, he was up against an in form RoGro who is super quick and he barely had a chance to get used to the car this weekend due to the weather. We’ve seen how drivers who jump into a car mid season usually do fairly rubbish on paper but really it is because they’ve got a mountain of challenges to face. There was never really a chance Heikki would do very well and certainly no chance of Lotus ending higher than 4th- which is exactly why they should have put Davide Valsecchi in the car instead.

    1. I don´t agree.
      – Vettel was a tester and made it to the points in his first race.
      – Schumacher jumped into a Jordan and qualified 7th (then his car broke), then jumped into a Benetton Ford and made it to the points in his first 3 races.
      – Senna made it to the points in his 2nd and 3rd races, and with a Toleman-Hart!
      – On his debut in F1 Hamilton got 9 podiums in a row, 2 of them wins.
      Clay Regazzoni, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart, Jacques Villeneuve, Phil Hill, John Surtees and even Mark Webber also demonstrated that you can make it to the points in your first races, and all of them being rookies.
      And KOV is not a rookie…

      1. ..and you forgot to mention the man he was replacing for..Kimi Raikkonen.

  9. I like Heikki but I think he is a bit overrated. Was there any period where he really impressed?

    That said, it was always going to be difficult to score points with so little preparation.

  10. Given that he didn’t know the car, he did a good job, his racecraft was very good. Davide hasn’t raced anything since last September, and is hardly a blindingly fast driver, won GP2 after 5 seasons, and it’s very arrogant for him to hold himself in the same regard as Hulk, Hamilton and other great GP2 champions, and for him to think that just because he’s enthusiastic he’ll be better is pretty stupid. Over one lap, Heikki was very fast, very quick in the wet too, but like most of his career, struggles with race pace, although this has been exaggerated by not knowing the car.

  11. He did better than Fisichella, much-much better. The differences between drivers and cars are really small and seems that you just cantt jump into a car and perform. I personally think Valsecchi would have been even worse – maybe over-trying and crashing out. At least Heikki did bring the car to the finish, only a bit too slow not to score some points.

    We’ve seen many races when Massa was barely on points or out of when Alonso was on podium. Even Lewis vs Nico have had huged differences in speed on times. It’s not easy in F1.

  12. I said it. He didn’t delivered on McLaren, either on Renault nor Caterham. There is no reason he would deliver now.
    BTW, even Lotus had mathematical options to be third (even second) in the WCC, there is no way they would achieve it, with Alonso always being fourth – sixth on the sunday. They should went with their test driver.

    1. They should went with their test driver.

      What makes you think he could’ve done any better?

      Valsecchi has never raced in F1 so the only experience he has is from a handful of tests and simulator running which isn’t much. Sure, he’s a nice guy but so is Heikki and it didn’t seem to help him much.

  13. Somewhere in Italy, Luca Badoer is screaming “See guys? Not so easy to just jump into a decent car and score points, is it?”

  14. that was it, that was your chance and for whatever reason you couldn’t make it work. See you in formula-e, KOV

  15. Very disappointing two races from Kovalainen, I doubt he’s on Boulliers list now for 2014.

    I know it’s extremely difficult to step in and be a sub at short notice like that but I seriously doubt that Valsecchi could have done any worse.

    Kovalainen has had more than enough chances now to prove himself, time for new drivers in F1.

  16. Jacques Villeneuve (at Renault in 2004) and Giancarlo Fisichella (at Ferrari in 2009) proved it’s difficult to jump into a car and be fast but yeah … disappointing …

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