Heikki Kovalainen may only have been Lotus’ third choice as the 2013 successor for surgery-bound Kimi Raikkonen.
The Enstone based team will announce on Thursday that Finn Kovalainen, who has been Caterham’s ‘Friday’ driver this season, will race in Austin and Brazil at the wheel of Raikkonen’s number 7.
But it emerged this week that Nico Hulkenberg was also approached by Lotus, who found the German locked into the rest of his contract at Sauber.
And Michael Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm told Bild newspaper that the seven time world champion was also approached by Lotus.
“It’s not unusual that he was asked,” she is quoted as saying.
“Michael would be fit enough, but he is enjoying his new life.”
Another retired F1 veteran, Rubens Barrichello, may have been yet another contender.
The Brazilian mischievously posted a photo of himself driving a 1977 black and gold Lotus on Twitter, with the caption: “Anyone remember this?”
But in the end, 32-year-old Kovalainen was chosen by Lotus, with team boss Eric Boullier quoted by Italy’s Autosprint: “Don’t forget that he has won a grand prix.”
Not only that, Kovalainen has driven on Pirelli’s sensitive 2013 tyres, while Caterham – like Lotus – is powered by a Renault engine.
And in 2007, the Finn made his debut for Enstone based Renault.
“A lot of the same people are still there,” Finnish commentator Oskari Saari told MTV3. “In a way, it’s the same team.”
Former F1 driver Mika Salo, who was the first to mention his countryman as a candidate, said Austin and Brazil is Kovalainen’s chance to stake a claim for a 2014 seat — even at Lotus.
“I don’t know what the (financial) situation is at Lotus now,” said Salo, “and whether he stands a chance.
“But he definitely would not hurt the situation if he managed to score two podiums.”
© RIF | GMM