Who will Kovalainen be driving for in 2013?

Tuesday 18th September 2012, 21:49 by Daniel Chalmers 

Caterham F1 Team

As the rumours in the driver market start to go into overdrive Heikki Kovalainen is one driver who is being linked here, there and everywhere.

Recently he has been linked with Felipe Massa’s seat at Ferrari, a return to McLaren and Lotus too (who he drove for under the Renault guise).

Clearly Kovalainen has been thriving at Caterham. Every time he gets in the car he extracts everything possible out of it and more. He has worked very hard in his time with the team and his attitude has been second to none.

Many would have struggled with a move from a top team to a team at the back of the grid. Kovalainen has risen to the challenge of the situation and made the most of it.

He definitely deserves a second chance in a more competitive car. He has improved massively as a driver over the last two or three years and mentally he is much stronger too.

The main issue he has when convincing a top team to take him on is his 2008/2009 stint at McLaren. You would have to say it is a black mark on his scorecard.

He was beaten comprehensively by Lewis Hamilton during both years at the team. Hamilton’s incredible pace definitely got to him at times.

Although it has to be said there were flashes of real good pace throughout the two years. He did an incredible pole lap at the 2008 British GP to name one example.

I think he had miserable luck at times in 2008, and that big accident in the Spanish GP can’t have helped.

In 2009 he had a very difficult car. It was sort of car that only the greats could really extract great pace from, and that is what we saw from Hamilton that year. However even in that season there were occasions when fuel corrected Heikki was the quicker driver over a single lap.

Certainly the risk a top team takes is that history will repeat itself. Driving for a team at the back of the field is much less pressure. When you deliver a giant killing performance you get plenty of praise thrown at you. If you don’t then nobody cares. It’s quite a nice life in that respect.

It’s very different to being in a top team and being expected to perform in every single event, otherwise questions are asked.

In my mind when it comes to drivers outside of the top teams wanting that big promotion, there are three or four drivers ahead of Kovalainen in the queue.

I think Sergio Perez, Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg are the best three drivers currently in F1’s midfield. All three are capable of making that big step up. No doubt all of their managers have very hot phones at the moment.

If Heikki was to move to a top team I think Ferrari would be the most likely destination. I think he would be fast enough to do a better job than Felipe is currently doing (especially over a single lap), but probably isn’t fast enough to cause Fernando too many headaches in terms of the title fight.

Those three other names mentioned above could potentially pose a threat to Fernando.

If Ferrari is to replace Massa they have to strike the perfect balance. It has to be a driver who can score more points than Massa was, but won’t cause too much bother to Fernando. Fernando is the heartbeat in their team at the moment so they simply have to keep him happy or else.

The question is whether Heikki would want to be the Ferrari number two. Driving a Ferrari, albeit as Fernando’s team mate, has to be better than driving for a team at the back of the grid.

I also doubt McLaren would rehire him despite the recent rumours. I think the likes of Perez and Di Resta would be stronger options for them. They are very likely to be the Woking team’s top targets if Lewis leaves.

So if Heikki wants to rejoin a top team Ferrari is probably his best chance unless Lotus loses one of their drivers. All in all it would be a very positive move for him I think compared to what he has now.

If I were Stefano Domenicali, Heikki would be the driver I would choose to replace Felipe.

If a move to a front running team doesn’t happen, then the fact that the likeable Finn is being linked with top teams is going to be doing him no harm whatsoever.

If one or two drivers from the midfield do make the jump to a top team, it would leave seats in the midfield for Heikki to go for.

I could easily see him driving for Sauber or Force India. He would be a very safe and fast pair of hands, who could be trusted to score a good haul of points for those teams. They need a driver who can do that when the constructor’s championship is so tight in the midfield.

My gut feeling is that a midfield team will be Heikki’s next likely destination after Caterham. However in general I think his future is bright once again.

Who do you see Heikki driving for next year? Have your say in the comments below.

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