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:
Valiant efforts from Hunter-Reay, Dixon come up just short at Road America
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon drove about as hard as they possibly could during Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, and they both drove nearly perfect races.
Hunter-Reay took advantage of Will Power’s engine issues on the start to immediately jump into second, and stalked pole sitter and leader Josef Newgarden from there, often staying within only a couple car lengths of his gearbox.
Dixon, meanwhile, had a tougher chore after qualifying a disappointing 12th. Further, he was starting in the same lane as Will Power, and when Power had engine issues when the green flag waved, Dixon was one of several drivers who was swamped in the aftermath.
However, as is his style, he quietly worked his way forward, running sixth after the opening round of pit stops, and then working his way up to third after the second round of stops.
It all meant that, after Lap 30, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon were nose-to-tail at the front, with the latter two in position to challenge for the win.
Yet, neither was able to do so. Hunter-Reay never got close enough to try to pass Newgarden, while Dixon couldn’t do so on either Hunter-Reay or Newgarden. And, neither driver went longer in their final stint – Dixon was actually the first of that group to pit, doing so on Lap 43, with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden pitting together one lap later.
And Newgarden pulled away in the final stint, winning by over three seconds, leaving Hunter-Reay and Dixon to finish second and third.
It was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, with Hunter-Reay noting that he felt like he had enough to challenge for a win.
“I felt like we had the pace for (Newgarden), especially in the first two stints,” he asserted. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint – I didn’t know when it was going to come.”
He added that, if he could do it over again, he would have been more aggressive and tried to pass Newgarden in the opening stint.
“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”
Dixon, meanwhile, expressed more disappointment in the result, asserting that qualifying better would have put him in a possibly race-winning position.
“I think had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today,” he expressed.
The disappointment for Dixon also stems from the knowledge that his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda had the pace to win, especially longer into a run.
“The car was pretty good on the long stint,” he asserted. “I think for us the saving grace was probably the black tire stint two. We closed a hefty gap there. We were able to save fuel early in the first stint, which enabled us to go a lap longer than everybody, had the overcut for the rest of the race.
“I think speed-wise we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn 14), got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.”
Dixon remains in the championship lead, however, by 45 points, while Hunter-Reay moved up to second, tied with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.