After losing his seat in the off-season, Heikki Kovalainen gets back in back with Caterham after agreeing to take part in opening practice at the next two grands prix to help develop the cars. The Finn takes some time to answer some questions from Gary Meenghan.
Heikki Kovalainen puts golf in his rear-view mirror for now with return to Caterham
After losing his seat in the off-season, the Finn is back in the car Friday after agreeing to take part in opening practice for Caterham at the next two grands prix. We caught up with him to find out what he has been doing since December and inquire about his expectations this week.
q - Welcome back. How did this arrangement come about?
a - I never wanted to leave F1 in the first place and we talked about it for a long time. At the very beginning, I wasn't interested in this kind of [development] role, but when you are sitting at home watching other people driving the car, you think, 'Well, I could have a go'. Just before Malaysia, I spoke to Tony [Fernandes, the team owner] and it all came together relatively quick.
Do you see this as the first step to a return to racing?
There are no plans to race at the moment. I will drive Fridays and help the team as much as I can. Of course, I want to race in the future and being here puts me in a better position if there was ever a race drive available here or even somewhere else.
You have vastly more experience than the two Caterham drivers, Charles Pic and Giedo Van Der Garde. Have you considered what might happen if you start posting much quicker lap times?
I haven't worried about that too much, because there is no plan to race now. I'm here to help the drivers, so my role's different to what it was. Naturally, if I'm pushing them, that makes them even quicker. Everyone who gets to F1 is at a certain level of skills; I just have more experience. The guys don't necessarily know how good this car could be, or if it is at its maximum already, so that's how I'll help.
You lost your seat because the current drivers were able to bring sponsorship money. Does that still frustrate you or are you over it and moved on?
I was OK with it from the very beginning. I made my position very clear from the start and said if it leads to not having a race drive, then so be it. I kept fit, though, and kept in touch, so if something came up, I'm ready to go. I had different offers to do other things - endurance racing, rally, etc. - but my heart wasn't in it yet.
F1 is what still really interests me, so I kept the door open.
Will you just be appearing on Fridays or are you going to be helping at the Caterham factory, too?
I'll be doing some stuff in the simulator. I was supposed to be at the Masters [golf tournament at August, Georgia] all weekend last week, but because [Ian] Poulter didn't make the cut, I had to leave early and did a run in the simulator instead. It is a good kit they have now, much better than last year. I actually thought about a pro golfing career, but I figured out I wasn't making enough money, so I better come back!