Heikki Kovalainen is currently competing in his sixth season in Formula One, driving for the Caterham F1 Team, having previously driven for Renault and McLaren. During his time on the grid he has had one pole position, one win, two fastest laps and four podiums. He currently lies 19th in the 2012 championship – the highest placed driver of those yet to score a point, although he seems closest to picking up his first. While he normally drops out of qualifying in the first session, he has made it through to the second session on two occasions this season, out-qualifying both Toro Rosso drivers on merit at the European GP last time out. He also regularly out-qualifies team-mate Vitaly Petrov, having only been beaten during qualifying by his team-mate once this season, and three times in total over the course of the past two seasons. Here we take a closer look at his Formula One career and his season so far.
Kovalainen started off as a test driver for the team before being promoted to race seat after Fernando Alonso left the team for McLaren. His first season was somewhat mixed although he did finish the year in seventh place in the championship. He also got his first F1 podium after keeping his nerve through a tricky Japanese GP which was wet and saw a number of drivers make mistakes. He managed to hold off fellow countryman Kimi Räikkönen to finish the race in second.
After Alonso’s somewhat difficult year at McLaren, he decided to return to Renault, meaning that there was a vacant seat alongside Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, a seat which Kovalainen was signed up to fill. The 2008 season saw Kovalainen take his first pole position at the British GP and later his first win at the Hungarian GP. He once again finished seventh in the championship although this time with 23 more points than he had achieved in 2007. He remained with McLaren for the 2009 season, although both drivers struggled with the car as it lacked pace. Kovalainen had a dismal start to the season after he failed to get past Turn 1 at the first two races, although his fortunes improved as the season continued. It was revealed at the end of 2009 that Jenson Button would be joining McLaren to partner Hamilton, leaving Kovalainen without a drive
Lotus/Caterham (2010 – present)
Kovalainen joined Team Lotus, a new team to join the grid, for the 2010 season and has been there since. The team are currently known as Caterham and he partners Russian driver Vitaly Petrov. His best finish so far in the past three seasons has been 12th with 13th his best in 2012. Caterham are on the hunt for their first F1 points and it has been Kovalainen who looks closest to securing it.
F1 Career Summary
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Career Points: 105
Best Championship Finish: 7th
What the fans like
- His association with Angry Birds – his helmet and the game
- The fact he is a “cool guy” and Finnish
- The way he is with the media – he has a personality and isn’t afraid to show it in interviews
- His enthusiasm about golf and his love of playing it
- The 2010 Singapore GP when his car caught fire and instead of endangering those in the pit-lane, he pulled over at the side of the track and tackled the fire himself, earning him the title of “fireman”
- His pole position at Silverstone in 2008 – his race engineer informed him he was on pole position “by a mile” which was five tenths ahead of second placed Mark Webber
- That he wasn’t afraid/didn’t show any disappointment when he moved from McLaren, a frontrunning team, to Team Lotus (now Caterham) at the back of the field.
- He fights for positions, even if they are not for points, and he often races with the likes of Toro Rosso.
- His win in Hungary – he is a race winner
- It is too difficult to choose just one thing to love about Heikki
- The following video sums up Heikki Kovalainen’s personality and is a great demonstration of F1 drivers “being real”:
Can Kovalainen score his first point of the season, and Caterham’s first points in Formula One? And can he get his car into the second qualifying session more frequently?