Heikki Kovalainen may have only been confirmed as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement at Lotus for the final two rounds of the season yesterday, but the Finnish driver has immediately fitted in at the team by excelling during practice today in Austin.
Kovalainen, who raced in F1 between 2007 and 2012, has only had a handful of practice run-outs for Caterham this year, and many were unsure whether or not he would be able to fit in at the team. However, Lotus’ decision to hire him instead of promoting reserve driver Davide Valsecchi (citing Kovalainen’s experience as the determinant factor) was vindicated by the Finn’s performance on Friday, finishing fifth in FP2.
“It’s been a pretty smooth landing, joining Lotus F1 Team,” Kovalainen said. “We’ve had no major issues on track today and we just need to keep chipping away to see how good we can get the car for tomorrow and Sunday. We lost a bit of track time in the morning, but the car balance was reasonably good straight away.”
Kovalainen finished ahead of teammate Romain Grosjean in FP2 despite both drivers being fuelled equally.
“I was able to settle in and work immediately on the setup and tire work. All the procedures and routines are quite similar up and down the pit lane, plus I’m familiar with all the systems from driving with a Renault engine already this year and previously, so it was a pretty straight-forward day.”
Like many drivers, Kovalainen is vying for a seat on next year’s grid, and if he can continue this form throughout the rest of the weekend, the Finn will be doing himself a world of good. Further to that, he is looking to end his record streak of sixty-one consecutive finishes outside of the points, dating back to the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix.