Lotus has officially unrelieved Heikki Kovalainen as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement at the team for the final two races of the season.
Kovalainen, who has made 109 Grand Prix starts in his career for Renault, McLaren and Caterham, will substitute for his Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the final two races of the year in the Unites States and Brazil, as the 2009 Champion is currently due to undergo back surgery to solve a recurring injury.
The 32-year-old, who raced for the Enstone team in its former guise as Renault in 2007, has spent 2013 on the side-lines after losing his race seat at Caterham at the end of last season, and has been limited to just a handful of free practice appearances for the Hingham-based outfit throughout the season, most recently at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013”, said Kovalainen. “We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible.
“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.
“This is a great opportunity for me, so I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for allowing me to take advantage of it.”
Lotus’ Team Principal Eric Boullier explained that while the team had been expected to promote its Reserve Driver Davide Valsecchi in place of Raikkonen, Kovalainen’s wealth of Formula One experience made him the more attractive option as the team battle for second in the Constructors’ Championship with Mercedes and Ferrari.
“Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo.
“On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki.
“Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible.
“We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”
Images courtesy of Lotus F1 Team