Michael Bailey, Formula One correspondent
Monday, January 14, 2013
Former Caterham chief Mike Gascoyne believes it is Heikki Kovalainen’s fault he seems destined to be without a drive for 2013.
It was something of a coup when the fledgling Hingham outfit named the Finn as one of its drivers for its then-Lotus Racing marque as it joined the grid three years ago.
Kovalainen’s initial three-year deal saw him earn new admirers and rebuild his reputation following a difficult two seasons with McLaren, to the point where it looked like the 31-year-old would be a man in demand – and he duly brought in sports management group IMG early last year to look after his 2013 prospects.
But financially maintaining a driver who has admitted he does not bring a significant sponsorship budget with him has seemingly reached its end this winter, as Caterham look to racers who can help support the team.
Charles Pic has already been confirmed with Caterham for 2013, so with a Force India seat the only other vacancy on the grid, Kovalainen seems set to miss out.
“It is actually a great shame,” said Gascoyne, who helped set up the F1 constructor but now has responsibility for other areas of the group’s business.
“Heikki is a very talented driver, but last year his management did not handle him very well and he has not done himself any favours.
“It is a tough environment out there for everyone. He has had three years with Caterham, was paid well, and he should have shown more respect about that.”
For Kovalainen’s part, the former Renault driver and 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix winner feels his reliable Caterham performances have not been regarded as highly as they should have.
“Of course we’re working flat out to see if we can do something about 2013, but the problem is the results that I’ve had over these last two or three years have not been enough to get in a top car, and then the average teams are in a situation now where they have to take pay drivers, and that rules out the second half of the grid,” Kovalainen told Autosport.
“It’s a tricky situation that I’m in now. Although people say you’ve driven well, you’ve done a good job, the fact is that 15th, 16th or 17th on paper is not as good as someone who’s been sixth, seventh or eighth.
“It was slightly surprising. I thought after last season and the last couple of years at Caterham I thought I’d be in a better position on the market.”
Kovalainen’s 2012 team-mate Vitaly Petrov, ex-Williams driver Bruno Senna and Caterham’s 2012 GP2 racer Giedo van der Garde remain favourites for the remaining Caterham drive.
The opening four-day winter test ahead of the new season begins in Spain at Jerez on February 5.