x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Heikki Kovalainen in for ailing Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus

Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen will return to Formula One as a stand-in for compatriot Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus in the final two races of the season, the team said at the US Grand Prix.

AUstin, TEXAS // Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen will return to Formula One as a stand-in for compatriot Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus in the final two races of the season, the team said at the US Grand Prix on Thursday.

Raikkonen, currently third in the championship, announced on Sunday he would be missing the races in Texas and Brazil because he needed back surgery.

Kovalainen, 32, a former McLaren, Renault and Caterham driver and veteran of 109 starts, has not raced since the end of last year.

“Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed.”

The Lotus principal Eric Boullier recognised the team had a difficult decision, with the Italian reserve driver Davide Valsecchi overlooked for the opportunity.

Praising last year’s GP2 winner as a talented youngster with “a great deal of promise”, Boullier said they had opted for Kovalainen because of his experience.

Kovalainen has not scored a point since 2009, but the Finn is a past race winner with four podiums to his credit.

Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who is moving back to Ferrari next season, has complained about back pain this season but has also said Lotus have failed to pay his wages, triggering speculation about his motives.

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