Heikki Kovalainen will fill in for fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the final two races of 2013, the team confirmed today in a statement on the Lotus F1 Team website.
Kovalainen has been released from his contract with Caterham for the remainder of the season so that he can compete for Lotus. He had been assisting with the development of this year’s Caterham car by taking part in Friday practice sessions for the team.
When Raikkonen announced last week that he would not be available for the final two races of the season, Lotus had to scramble to find the most competitive driver possible to fill Raikkonen’s vacant seat. In particular, Lotus needed a driver who could help them in their quest to take second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Among the drivers approached were Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who turned down the offer so that he could see out his season with Sauber, and retired seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, who was disinclined to make a second comeback to the sport he dominated so thoroughly a decade ago.
Kovalainen is an experienced and highly rated driver, which explains his appeal for Lotus. They approached Kovalainen and Caterham and it was arranged that Kovalainen would be able to return to the grid with Lotus this weekend in Austin, Texas.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier explained the decision to put Kovalainen in Raikkonen’s car:
“Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo. On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki.
“Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible. We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”
Kovalainen expressed his enthusiasm for the task he faces in the next two weeks:
“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013. We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible. Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge, but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed. This is a great opportunity for me, so I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for allowing me to take advantage of it.”
To date, Kovalainen has competed in 110 Grands Prix and has scored one victory, four podiums and one pole position. He will be in a competitive car again this weekend for the first time since he left McLaren at the end of 2009 and will be looking to make the most of the opportunity to score points again in Formula One.
David Coulthard is a household name. He’s known as a successful Formula One driver, a commentator and a Scotsman. In his career as a driver, he battled with (and sometimes beat) Michael Schumacher, Mike Hakkinen and Damon Hill, to name but a few. He won 13 Grands Prix, including races at some of motor racing’s great venues – Monaco, Silverstone and Spa, among others – and finished second to Schumacher in the 2001 World Championship.
In this video, David Coulthard talks about his road to Formula One, his career as a driver with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, and his new role as a commentator and F1 pundit. He’s frank, honest, and unafraid of criticising himself. This is well worth watching for any follower of Formula One.
Since Felipe Massa’s announcement last week that he will be leaving Ferrari at the end of 2013, speculation has grown over his future in Formula One. While he is certainly being soundly beaten by his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, he remains a quick and experienced driver, which makes him an attractive option for any team going forward.
Of the top teams, only McLaren and Lotus have yet to finalise their 2014 driver line-ups. At McLaren, Jenson Button‘s future is not yet contractually secure, but he is not expected to be going anywhere at the end of 2013. Button has expressed his wish to stay with McLaren repeatedly over the last three seasons, and McLaren have had only good things to say about Button, which suggests the relationship is likely to continue.
At Lotus, however, there is at least one seat available now that Kimi Raikkonen has signed for Ferrari. There are rumours that Nico Hulkenberg could be set to take Raikkonen’s place alongside Romain Grosjean next season, but as yet nothing is confirmed. Grosjean himself does not yet have a contract for 2014, which could result in an entirely new driver line-up at Lotus next year.
In the week since Massa announced his Ferrari exit, he has confirmed that he and his manager have made contact with Lotus and McLaren, among other teams, but that it is with Lotus that the talks are positive.
Mass told Globo Esporte, “We are negotiating,.. In my opinion, Lotus has a competitive car, which is what I want.
“We are having many conversations to try to find a way, not only for me but for Lotus, to continue with a good car.”
Last week, Lotus team principal Eric Boullier confirmed that he is considering Massa for next season, saying to RMC Sport: “Felipe Massa is also available, so he is inevitably on the list.
“We are the only team left with a good seat available, and so inevitably this will affect many people.”
An announcement from Lotus regarding their 2014 driver line-up is expected soon.
If you want to be loved by the Tifosi (Ferrari fans), you must win at Monza in a Ferrari. Schumacher did so at his first attempt, in the 1996 Italian Grand Prix. It was not a likely victory.
Throughout the 1996 season, Ferrari had struggled with unreliability. In the 13 races preceding the Italian Grand Prix, Schumacher had retired six times, five due to failures on the car. The most embarrassing of the retirements came in France, where Schumacher’s Ferrari engine failed on the warm-up lap, before the race had even begun.
Schumacher had won twice already in 1996. First in Spain in torrential rain, where he produced arguably one of the greatest drives in the history of Formula One. Then in Belgium, where tactics and a quick and unusually reliable Ferrari helped him to his second victory of the season.
Schumacher qualified third for the Italian Grand Prix, as usual just behind the Williams pair of Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. A poor start from Schumacher put him down to sixth place by the end of the first lap, and gave him plenty of work to do if he wanted to achieve a good result at Ferrari’s home race.
David Coulthard, who was running fifth for McLaren, was soon out of Schumacher’s way and beached in the gravel trap at the Roggia chicane. Schumacher then set about attacking Jacques Villeneuve for fourth position. He swept by the Canadian’s Williams into the Ascari chicane and then chased after the leading trio of Hill, Alesi and Hakkinen.
On lap 3, Hakkinen clipped a heap of tyres that had been placed on the apex of one of the chicanes to prevent drivers from cutting the corners (an astoundingly dangerous strategy by the stewards) and damaged his front wing, making him vulnerable to Schumacher who was closing quickly. Schumacher looked for a way past during the fourth lap, but could not get close enough to the McLaren in a straight line and had to wait until Hakkinen peeled off into the pits at the end of the lap for a front wing change. Now in third place after four laps, Schumacher chased after Alesi in second and Hill in the lead.
Lap 6 saw the sudden and unexpected retirement of Damon Hill. In a momentary lapse of concentration, Hill hit the tyres on the right-hand part of the second Retiffilo chicane, breaking the front suspension of his Williams and spinning him into retirement. Hill’s accident gifted the lead to Alesi and promoted Schumacher to second place.
Within a few laps, Schumacher had inched his way up to the back of Jean Alesi‘s Benetton and was pressuring for the lead. But Alesi held his own well, keeping Schumacher behind until it was time for Alesi to peel off into the pits and take on a fresh set of tyres and fuel to last until the end of the race. Schumacher stayed out, taking over the lead at the end of the 31st lap to the delight of the Ferrari fans, and began to push, delivering the fastest lap of the race the next time round.
On lap 33, Schumacher pitted for his one and only fuel and tyre stop. He had been pushing hard to make up ground on Alesi, and it paid off. Schumacher emerged from the pit lane well clear of Alesi’s Benetton, and the Italian crowd rose to their feet with joy at having a Ferrari out in front at Monza.
From that point on, Schumacher had only to keep going to take his first Italian Grand Prix victory. He was comfortably faster than Alesi, even without pushing, which meant only a mistake or mechanical failure could come between him and victory. But the drama was not quite over yet. Several drivers had retired or had to pit for new front wings after clipping the tyres that were sitting at each apex of the chicanes. With just over 10 laps remaining in the race, Schumacher clipped the tyre stack with his left front tyre in the first Retiffilo chicane. Fortunately, there was no major damage, just a small vibration that disappeared as the race went on. But it was a close call for Schumacher, and he gave the tyres a wide berth for the rest of the race.
Schumacher held on to win the race by 18 seconds from Jean Alesi, and set the fastest lap of the race with 3 laps to go. Mika Hakkinen finished third for McLaren. It was the first Ferrari win at Monza since Gerhard Berger won in 1988, and was the first of five wins for Schumacher at the historic circuit.
After the race, Schumacher was visibly jubilant on the podium as he took in the scene of thousands of Ferrari fans crowding towards him on the main straight of Monza. Afterwards, he described the experience of standing on the Monza podium:
“I have never seen such emotion. It’s crazy. It is only possible in Italy. It’s fantastic. You get goose bumps everywhere. They have waited a long time for this and they deserve it.”
Michael Schumacher would experience the thrill of victory at Monza another four times in his career – in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006 – and would never win the Italian Grand Prix in any car other than a Ferrari.