Mika Salo believes Lotus could do worse than choose former Caterham and McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen to replace Kimi Raikkonen for the final two races of 2013.
There is growing agreement the team’s reserve driver, former GP2 champion, Davide Valsecchi will take the reigns of Raikkonen’s E21 for the final two races, but with Lotus in a major battle for second in the Constructors Championship, Kovalainen could be a much better choice.
“I have thought about this for a while,” the former Ferrari driver told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3, “and I think getting Heikki would be a smart idea.”
Indeed Kovalainen was in a F1 car as recently as Abu Dhabi and has participated in a number of Friday morning sessions for Caterham during the 2013 season.
“Valsecchi will hardly be able to do anything on a completely new track to him,” Salo said, “but Heikki has raced in Austin.
“Caterham also has a Renault engine. Heikki has been waiting for something like this, and if I was a team boss, I would take him rather than Valsecchi.
“That’s nothing against Valsecchi, but simply about Lotus needing to score points,” added Salo.
It could also provide a chance for Kovalainen to show off his skills as he looks to make a return to full-time racing most likely with Caterham in 2014.
Another option for Lotus could be to bring forward it’s 2014 line-up with Nico Hulkenberg the likely option, however his current employers Sauber say the German will complete the season with them.
“Nico will do the last two races for us, just as he did the other 17, ” a spokesman told Speed Week.
While Hulkenberg’s manager Werner Heinz would not comment on the Raikkonen situation he is quoted as saying: ”We are still in talks with several teams, including Lotus.”
Another option for 2014 is the now unseated Pastor Maldonado, the Venezuelan was seen as a likely option if the Quantum deal failed, however Lotus owner Gerard Lopez says he remains in the running.
“There are four possible candidates,” he told the German newspaper Die Welt.
“These include Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado, and I won’t say anything about the other two.”
Despite his reputation, Lopez did say however that Maldonado should not be cast as just another ‘pay driver’.
“Don’t forget,” he said, “Maldonado has won a Grand Prix. He doesn’t have to hide anything.
“We would not put someone in our car who has just got their driver’s licence, no matter their means,” Lopez added.
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