After making a somewhat surprise comeback for the final two races of the season, Heikki Kovalainen has declared that he thinks he is a better driver than when he drove for McLaren back in 2008.
The Finnish driver has settled in quite well so far at the Lotus team but finished in a disappointing 14th place in the final race of the season in Brazil.
Kovalainen had previously spent three years at the bottom end of the grid driving for Caterham under its various guises. Many thought he deserved a seat at a better team. However, he was dropped at the end of last season, and has spent this year in a reserve role at the team.
Speaking to Finnish paper Turun Sanomat, Kovalainen believes that having the opportunity to drive for a race winning team for the final two races has boosted his confidence. This is important as he seeks a race seat for the 2014 season.
“Driving this (Lotus) car, a good car, I am now convinced that, with Caterham, I have developed as a driver in many areas compared to when I was at McLaren.”
Kovalainen put in a solid performance in Austin last weekend, managing to get through to the top ten shoot-out in qualifying. However, his race was compromised by a blocked brake duct; a problem similar to the one which caused Raikkonen’s retirement in Belgium this year.
Heikki Kovalainen’s race engineer Mark Slade, who worked together at McLaren, has also noticed a difference.
“Heikki is now more relaxed. He’s been very good at adapting to the new car.”
The Finn told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport that his aim is purely on Formula 1, even if it is just as a reserve driver.
It is difficult to say what his chances are of getting a race seat for next year. There are very few seats left but he has been linked with Caterham and even Lotus.
Unfortunately the latter seems rather unlikely. If the Quantum deal goes through then the team will probably take Hulkenberg, but if it doesn’t then they are more likely to take Maldonado, due to his financial backing by PDVSA.
Rumour also has it that Caterham are interested in Marcus Ericsson to partner Giedo van der Garde. However Kovalainen’s experience would be difficult to overlook.
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