Heikki Kovalainen states his 2013 demands – for Caterham or someone else
Heikki Kovalainen will set out on his third British Grand Prix with Caterham this weekend – but the biggest question is whether the talented Finn will hang around to make it four.
Since Tony Fernandes got his Hingham project off the ground for 2010, Kovalainen has helped mould the team into one genuinely fighting Toro Rosso in qualifying and races.
At the same time, the 30-year-old recovered from a difficult two years as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate at McLaren to re-establish himself as one of the paddock's top Formula One racers.
Valencia showed Caterham's improvement has taken them to the fringes of the midfield – and more upgrades are due at Silverstone this weekend.
But Kovalainen, in the final year of his original three-season deal at the Norfolk marque, admitted he does not plan to drive for a team fighting for positions outside the established teams in 2013 – be that with Caterham or elsewhere.
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'My personal target is still to return to the top as soon as possible,' said Kovalainen. 'Who knows where or when, but certainly next year I don't want to be racing in this position again. I want to be in the pack at least, to show what I can do and also to prove to myself what I think I could do.
'At the moment I don't know (if Caterham can provide that). It's too early to say. We have to wait and see how we improve and where we are heading, and then at some point see what is available.
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'The most important thing now is to keep the focus and momentum that we've gained and personally, to keep performing at a good level. That should put me in a good position whatever the situation at the end.
'I am quite happy here. I want to be fighting for better positions…but there are a lot of things that we have build here that are not necessarily worth throwing away immediately. It's not easy to build these kind of things with any team straight away.
'On the other hand, I'm not a kid any more. I'm in the prime in my career. But I've really enjoyed it here; I've got on well with the team and they are making the right moves.'
Caterham hope a major upgrade for Silverstone will see them build on the Q2 Saturday effort and 13th-14th double finish the team earned in Valencia – but with part of those being a new exhaust package, Kovalainen is staying cautious.
'We've been working extremely hard on these updates and in theory they look pretty good,' he added. 'But we know when you're working with the exhaust that it's a sensitive area and not always easy to get it working. We will see how it performs, but it's better not to rave about it too much yet.
'This is a proper highspeed circuit and there are very different demands on the car here than we've had in the last few events, but Valencia was a significant step forward for our team. It was a great boost for everyone and to out-qualify other cars that normally out-qualify us, it was a great feeling for everyone – and we were racing them on Sunday as well.
'So that was all positive and we gained a little bit of momentum, and we've got to keep that up.'