Heikki annouces: Caterham or Bust…
Heikki Kovalainen’s F1 career may end this weekend at the Brazilian Grand Prix. While, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso throw down in the last GP of the season to decide which one will win their third championship, Kovalainen will still be trying to gain a 12th place finish or better so that his team, Caterham, can top Marussia in the Constructors’ Championship standings to again achieve the 10th place as two years prior.
With a few really bad race results behind him, Heikki has been more grimly honest about his future in F1 than ever before and says that his professional career will end unless he gets a continuation to his contract from Caterham. This all in spite of the fact that there are still open driving spots at Williams. Force India closed their doors to Heikki a while ago, and Sergio Perez recently let it accidentally slip that his replacement at Sauber will be Esteban Gutierrez, who (like Perez before him) is supported by Mexican millionaire and richest man on the planet, Carlos Slim. With Nico Hülkenberg already signed on to the other Sauber seat, this means that Heikki has no open seat at the team and even Kamui Kobayashi will be forced to leave, despite his excellent race results.
Heikki still has a slim chance at Caterham and according to him there is “one free seat left” at the team. This either means that Vitaly Petrov has already bagged a continuation to his contract or that Jaime Alguersuari will be making his racing return at Caterham (while Robert Kubica will replace Alguersuari as Pirelli’s test-driver). Of course, it’s entirely possible Heikki could jump teams to drive at Marussia as Timo Glock’s team-mate, but it would hardly be a trade-up even though the team has manged to beat Caterham once this season. Sadly, amongst the 0-point club, one 12th place is still worth more than a complete dominance over the other non-scoring teams for the rest of the season.
I will feel sad if Heikki is forced to leave the sport. After a solid rookie year at Renault in 2007 when he ranked 7th in the over-all standings (beating his team-mate) and a fairly solid first year at McLaren in 2008 (during which he took his maiden and only race victory), his performance slumped in 2009 with lots of retirements and not a single podium to his name (winding up 12th in the standings). In 2010, he switched over to the debutant team, Lotus, which changed its name to Caterham for this season. Despite being consistently the best driver of the new teams introduced in 2010 and being rated as one of the top-10 best drivers by the team principals at the end of last year, Heikki’s career has unfortunately now hit a nose-dive with little chance for recovery.
I hope for the best, but if it can’t helped: Heikki, you will be missed.
Update (23.11.): It seems that Charles Pic, currently a Marussia driver, is in talks with Caterham. It’s not clear if he is competing for the same seat as Heikki or if he’s the other driver that was alluded to with Heikki’s comment about “one seat left” at Caterham. This also leaves open the question of who is driving with Timo Glock (already signed) at Marussia next year.