The Finn was dropped by the team in favour of inexperienced rookie Giedo van der Garde and former Marussia driver Charles Pic. With things not going to plan and the Leafield based teams race drivers failing to help develop the car, they drafted Kovalainen back in the form of a reserve driver role.
The role saw Kovalainen test the CT03 in first practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, he will also do the same at the next round in Spain.
Talking to Sky Sports F1, Kovalainen gave insight into how the car felt and admitted that it was more difficult to drive, despite it effectively being the same base car as the CT02 driven last year. ”
“I could feel that the car is more difficult to drive than it was at the end of last year,
“Of course things have changed, tyres have changed, the setup has changed as a result and mainly because of these two things the car has become a bit more difficult to drive.”
Despite feeling that the team has made a step back, he could also see the car’s potential and expects the team to move ahead of Marussia with their new upgrade package for Barcelona. “On the other hand I could feel there was more we could use in this car and I felt that after driving the car we should be able to beat Marussia and now with the updates coming we should be in a position to beat them.”
The 31-year-old admitted that he was never in active talks with any other team bar Caterham despite seats being available at the time, even Marussia when they dropped sponsor-troubled Luiz Razia. “They were never serious talks, so it was never really an option,”
“I didn’t actually actively talk to other teams. I talked to Caterham for quite a long time, right up until they announced the other driver [Giedo van der Garde] and never really held any serious talks with anyone else.”
Rumours also circulated suggesting a possible falling out with Caterham boss Tony Fernandes, but Heikki was quick to deny any arguments or disagreements. “No it is false – I never fell out with him,”
“I didn’t agree with what they were offering me this year, I didn’t agree with Tony on that, but I never fell out with him.”
The talks opened up for the reserve role after Kovalainen watched qualifying for the season opener in Australia, he was confident that he could have made it into Q2 unlike the teams two race drivers. “Then at some point, I think it was at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying when the weather was quite tricky, I sent a message to Tony and said ‘I would have been in Q2,’ and then we started discussions about it again and he said ‘would you like to come and test our car’.”
Whether Kovalainen’s input will have a considerable impact on the teams development is unclear, but they will bring their first big upgrade to Spain after only flying out a few small tweaks to the fly-away races.
Kovalainen will not complete all the FP1 sessions though, American Alexander Rossi will also get his chance in the car when not competing in the GP2 championship.
Image courtesy of Caterham F1 Team