Heikki Kovalainen and Caterham will be reunited starting this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix, although not in a race seat.
The Finn, who spent three seasons with the team through its iterations as both Lotus Racing and Caterham, will run in free practice one both in Bahrain and in Spain in several weeks.
Kovalainen’s experience will be a necessary asset as Caterham introduces its first round of updates to its 2013 chassis, which so far has been outpaced by the Marussia at the back of the grid. Caterham’s race lineup is the second least experienced on the grid with Charles Pic and rookie Giedo van der Garde.
“It’s obviously great news that I’ll be on track in Bahrain and Spain and I’m really looking forward to getting back to work and helping the team as much as I can,” Kovalainen said in a team release. “I’ll be taking part in the two FP1 sessions in Bahrain and Barcelona to give the team my input on the new parts we’re bringing to those races, and I’ll be working closely with the race drivers and the engineers on track and back at Leafield to help everyone get the most out of the new package.
“Tony (Fernandes), Cyril (Abiteboul, team principal) and I have been talking about me taking up this role for quite a while, so it’s good to finally be able to announce how I’ll be helping the team in 2013,” he added. “I’m physically ready to get back into the car and I know my experience can help give the team new ideas and options for directions to take on setup and strategy. I’m looking forward to getting back to work!”
American Alexander Rossi was set to run in FP1 at Bahrain, replacing van der Garde. The team release didn’t indicate which driver Kovalainen would fill in for, but Rossi’s news from the release is a switch to Caterham’s GP2 program replacing – incidentally – fellow reserve driver Ma Qing Hua of China.
Kovalainen and Rossi will be Caterham F1’s two official reserve drivers going forward, with Ma’s adjusted plans and official role to be determined at a later date.