Heikki Kovalainen has reiterated that he will not become a pay driver to secure a full-time return to the world of Formula 1, after the Finnish ace was replaced by Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde at Caterham last season. Since then, Kovalainen has partaken in numerous Friday practice sessions for Caterham.
Once again at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, it was confirmed by Caterham that Heikki Kovalainen would return behind the wheel of the Renault-powered CT03 at both Spa-Francorchamps and Monza. The 31-year-old replaced Charles Pic at Spa, and will replace Giedo van der Garde at Monza in two weeks time. During the opening practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Heikki Kovalainen managed to our-perform van der Garde as the Leafield-based outfit continues their quest to catch and leapfrog rivals Marussia.
After the session, Heikki Kovalainen was queried about the possibilities of returning to a full-time drive for next season. Despite so many rumours circulating the paddock with regards to the driver market, Heikki Kovalainen explained how he has not entered talks with any other team on the grid. With many drivers such as Sergey Sirotkin set to enter the sport next season by paying their way into a team, Heikki Kovalainen has remained adamant that he will never become a pay driver just to return to the sport in a full-time role.
“If I find sponsors it would make me richer, not the team. I’m not looking for any sponsors, I’m not going to go down that route to find money.” Reiterated Heikki Kovalainen, who finished practice one 16th. “If somebody comes to me and pays me and offers me a deal, then ok I’d take it. But I’m not looking for that, I’m trying to earn my place on the grid in other ways. It’s tough, I had a good opportunity with McLaren but things didn’t quite work out so it’s quite difficult to overcome that. But I think it can be done, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Although Heikki Kovalainen adamantly refuses to search for money to return to a full-time drive, he is unperturbed with other drivers doing so. Sergey Sirotkin looks set to be the next pay driver to enter the sport next season with Sauber, and at only 17-years-old is highly inexperienced. However, Kovalainen insists that if he is to return to Formula 1 in the near future, it will be purely down to his skill behind the wheel and not the size of his wallet.
“It doesn’t bother me. I don’t know who he [Sergey Sirotkin] is so I don’t know what he has done, maybe he’s very good. Time will tell.” Explained Heikki Kovalainen, when asked about Sergey Sirotkin and pay drivers in general. “It doesn’t bother me very much, people coming here and buying their seats. I’ve had my own opportunities throughout my career, maybe I’ve not made the most of the them but I’m still here and my aim is to come back to race once again. I’ve earned my place here on my own skill rather than anything else. To me it [the sport] is not functioning correctly if you are loosing money by doing your job, you can’t survive like that. I don’t have a problem with it, if people have the opportunity then fine, but I think I have other qualities for the teams and hopefully in the end they will be the ones that will decide.”
Heikki Kovalainen, a previous race winner with McLaren at Hungary in 2008, will return to track action with Caterham once again next time out around Monza. This time the experienced Finn will replace Giedo van der Garde, as Caterham continue in their quest to catch Marussia at the back of the pack. To do so they require a 12th place finish or higher, something that could require luck in the last few races to achieve.
Picture Copyright © Octane Photographic