Caterham’s Fernandes admits ‘cold’ treatment in not bringing back F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen

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Two less than inspiring fill-in performances last season apparently cost Heikki Kovalainen a return to a full-time Formula One ride in 2014.

According to AutoSport.com, Kovalainen lost a chance to go back to driving full-time with Caterham this season based upon his finishes as a replacement driver for Kimi Raikkonen.

Kovalainen had raced full-time for Caterham from 2010-12 before being shifted to a reserve role last season.

When the opportunity arose to replace the Lotus-powered Raikkonen, a fellow Finn, for the final two races of last season, Kovalainen’s performance was marginal at best, finishing 14th at both Austin and Interlagos.

As a result, Caterham team principal Tony Fernandes elected to offer 2014 rides to Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson, leaving Kovalainen with nothing – not even a return to last season’s reserve role with the team.

“Obviously we would lie if that we said it (Kovalainen’s showing at Austin and Interlagos) didn’t play a part,” Fernandes said of making his eventual decision. “It was a whole mixture of a lot of things, but in any decision there are pros and cons.

“I am egalitarian, I put it out to various team members. There were those pro Heikki and those pro Kamui and I had to make a choice.”

Kovalainen continues to look for another ride, but given the start of the F1 season is just over a month away and teams have finalized their main driver and reserve lineups, odds are not in his favor.

Fernandes conceded the whole process admittedly was “cold.”

“We have to move on,” he said. “We have to be a little bit cold if we want to be successful.”

Here’s a video of Kovalainen’s run at Austin in November:

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”