|Born||19 October 1981 (age 30)|
|Formula One World Championship Career|
( 111 starts)
|First Race||2007 Australian Grand Prix|
|Last Race||2013 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|First Win||2008 Hungarian Grand Prix|
|Last Win||2008 Hungarian Grand Prix|
Heikki Johannes Kovalainen (born 19 October 1981 in Suomussalmi, Finland) is a Finnish Formula One racing driver who currently races for Caterham F1. He drove for McLaren in 2008 and 2009 and Team Lotus in 2010 and 2011, before its rebranding to Caterham.
He was supported by the Renault Driver Development programme early in his racing career, during which he won the World Series by Nissan championship and finished runner-up in the GP2 series. Renault signed him on as a full-time Formula One test driver for 2006, and then promoted him to a race seat for 2007. He gained his first podium by finishing second in the Japanese Grand Prix that year.
He moved to McLaren for the 2008 season, where he partnered Lewis Hamilton. His second season saw him achieve his first pole position at Silverstone and his first victory at Hungaroring, becoming the 100th driver to win a Formula One Grand Prix. He remained with the team for the 2009 season. In 2010, he moved to Team Lotus where he remained for 2011.
Kovalainen's career began in kart racing, much like that of many other Formula One drivers. He competed in karting from 1991 to 2000, during which time he finished runner-up in the Finnish Formula A championship in 1999 and 2000. In 2000 he won the Nordic championship and the Paris-Bercy Elf Masters event, as well as finished third in the World Formula Super A Championship, leading him to be elected as the Finnish Kart Driver of the Year.
Formula Renault (2001)Edit
Kovalainen began his car racing career in the British Formula Renault Championship, which fellow Finn Kimi Räikkönen had won in 2000 before moving straight into Formula One with Sauber. Kovalainen's apprenticeship in the junior categories of motor sport was more conventional, but he used Renault power at every step along the way. He finished fourth in the championship with two wins, two pole positions, five podiums and three fastest laps, earning the Rookie of the Year award. He also took part in the Formula Three Macau Grand Prix, where he finished eighth.
Formula Three (2002)Edit
Kovalainen attracted the support of the Renault Driver Development programme and in 2002 moved up to the British Formula Three Championship with Fortec Motorsport who used Renault engines. He became one of the most competitive drivers on the grid by the second half of the season and all five of his wins came in the final nine races. With three pole positions and three fastest laps, Kovalainen finished third overall in the championship behind Robbie Kerr and James Courtney and he was again Rookie of the Year.
He also demonstrated strong form in the international non-championship rounds, with second place in Macau and fourth place at the Marlboro Masters at Zandvoort.
World Series by Nissan (2003–2004)Edit
Kovalainen moved into the Renault-owned World Series by Nissan in 2003 – but faced a tough team-mate at the Gabord team in Franck Montagny. Montagny had already spent two seasons in the World Series and had won the championship in 2001. Montagny won the 2003 title with nine wins to Kovalainen's one.
Kovalainen continued in the series in 2004, but moved to Pons Racing, where he won the championship ahead of Tiago Monteiro, with 192points and six wins. With Kimi Räikkönen finishing seventh in Formula One and Marcus Grönholm fifth in the World Rally Championship, Kovalainen was awarded as the Finnish Driver of the Year.
GP2 Series (2005)EditIn 2005, Kovalainen entered the GP2 Series, the new 'feeder' series for F1 and the successor to Formula 3000. Driving for the Arden International team, Kovalainen began the season with strong results by winning the first round of the championship in Imola and then finishing third in the sprint race. In Barcelona he scored his third consecutive podium, but in the sprint race his car stalled on the grid. He dominated the race in Monaco by claiming pole position, leading the race for the first 21 laps and clocking the fastest lap of the race. Problems during his pitstop, however, dropped him down to fifth. At the Nürburgring he gave his best performance yet, by winning the race from 17th on the grid. In the sprint race José María López caused a collision which forced Kovalainen to retire. At Magny-Cours he won again from fourth on the grid, and came third in the sprint race.
At this point in the season, however, a resurgent Nico Rosberg with his ART Grand Prix team seemed to find more speed and began scoring victories, emerging as Kovalainen's main rival for the championship. Kovalainen and Arden fought back, scoring podiums and points positions in Silverstone, Hockenheim and Hungaroring, but were unable to find the necessary speed to beat Rosberg. In Istanbul's feature race Kovalainen finished tenth due to engine problems, but in the sprint race held in wet conditions he returned to his winning ways. At Monza Arden were fast again, and Kovalainen snatched his second pole of the season and won the feature race. In the sprint race he could only manage fifth position, however, and this meant that with four races left in the season, Kovalainen was leading Rosberg by only four points.
After a chaotic weekend at Spa affected by rain and Safety Cars, Rosberg took the lead from Kovalainen. In the final two rounds in Bahrain, Rosberg and ART seemed to be unmatched again, and he secured the championship by winning the feature race with Kovalainen finishing third. Retiring from the last sprint race, Kovalainen finished runner-up in the series, 15 points adrift.
2004–2006Kovalainen, Franck Montagny and José María López tested the Renault R23B F1 car at Barcelona in December 2003. Kovalainen also tested for Minardi, but Renault made him second test driver alongside Montagny for .
Renault's lead driver Fernando Alonso had signed for McLaren for the 2007 season, and Renault elected to promote Kovalainen in his place, which they confirmed on 6 September 2006. Team boss Flavio Briatore said: "With Kovalainen, I hope to find the anti-Alonso."
Kovalainen made his race debut at the Australian Grand Prix. His season got off to a rough start; he made several mistakes during the race, finishing tenth. Flavio Briatore felt it was a disappointing debut for the young Finn and hoped the real Kovalainen would show up next time.
Kovalainen scored his first World Championship point in his second Grand Prix at Sepang, Malaysia, and followed this with a ninth place in Bahrain. He then secured seventh place in Barcelona, outperforming team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, but finished down the order in Monaco, in 13th.
In Canada he made mistakes throughout practice, including one at the exit of turn 7, and hit the barrier. He crashed at the first chicane in qualifying, and damaged his rear wing significantly, and failed to make it through to the second qualifying session. In the race he made progress early on, and then halted. He had luck with the strategy and the Safety Car, and a podium was within his grasp, but he could not find a way past Alexander Wurz of Williams, who had also started towards the rear of the pack. Kovalainen was pulling away from the Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen in the closing stages, which was a real confidence booster for the team.In the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis he qualified in sixth position, and a good start saw him go past Räikkönen into fifth place. He held Räikkönen off, and led the race at the end of his first stint when the cars ahead of him made their pit stops. He re-joined behind Räikkönen and looked comfortable in sixth place until Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber broke down in front of him, and thus, Kovalainen finished fifth, while team-mate Fisichella failed to score points.
The second half of the European season failed to produce equally strong results, but it did keep the points tally ticking over. During the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, he was battling with Fisichella until the sharp Adelaide hairpin, when Jarno Trulli's Toyota made an optimistic lunge up the inside of Kovalainen which wrecked both drivers' races. Kovalainen had to pit for repairs and eventually finished 15th. Seventh place at the British Grand Prix was no disaster, with Fisichella finishing behind him.
Kovalainen scored a point at both the Nürburgring and the Hungaroring, and scored three more in Turkey, with Kovalainen coming ahead of Robert Kubica. Kovalainen again led the Grand Prix when cars ahead of him made their pit stops. Seventh place at Monza was a fair result. The team took a gamble in the next race at Spa-Francorchamps, with Kovalainen on a one-stop strategy while his challengers for the rear end of the points were all on two-stop strategies, which included the BMW's of Heidfeld and Kubica (who was docked ten places down the grid due to an engine change), Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber. A good start from Kovalainen saw him become a mobile chicane for all of them except Webber. The gamble did not pay off, although Kovalainen held off Kubica in the closing stages to secure the final points position. Better was to come at the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway, where, despite not making it through to the final qualifying session, Kovalainen raced well. While most of his rivals got into trouble one way or another in the hazardous wet conditions, Kovalainen did not and held off Kimi Räikkönen in the closing laps to take second place and his first podium in Formula One.
After finishing ninth in the Chinese Grand Prix, Kovalainen made a mistake in qualifying in Brazil and was left 17th on the grid. At the start of the race his team-mate Fisichella was involved in a collision with Sakon Yamamoto, which in turn caused Ralf Schumacher to collide with Kovalainen, forcing him to pit. On lap 36 he felt a vibration at the left rear, and suddenly the back end of the car snapped, launching Kovalainen into the barriers. The retirement, possibly caused by damage from the collision with Schumacher, was his first of the season, meaning he lost the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of becoming the first driver to finish all of the races in his first season. As it stands, he shares the record for most consecutive finishes from start of career with Tiago Monteiro, both having finished 16 races.
At the end of the 2007 season Fernando Alonso returned to Renault, and Kovalainen was left with offers from Toyota and McLaren. On 14 December 2007 it was confirmed that Kovalainen would replace Alonso once again and drive for McLaren Mercedes in 2008, alongside Lewis Hamilton. Kovalainen joined Keke Rosberg, Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen as Finnish drivers that have driven for McLaren.
- Main Article: Heikki Kovalainen/2008 Season
For the 2008 Formula One season Kovalainen switched to the McLaren team where he was largely overshadowed by team mate Lewis Hamilton. Nevertheless, he took his first fastest lap, his first pole position and his first Grand Prix win, en route to seventh in the championship on 53 points.
At the start of the 2009 season McLaren were struggling for pace. Both Kovalainen and Hamilton failed to get into the top ten in qualifying for the first two races.In the Australian Grand Prix, Kovalainen retired due to a collision with Mark Webber in the first corner and in Malaysia he spun off on the first lap while fighting for position with Hamilton and Massa. In China he scored his first points of the season by finishing fifth. McLaren gradually developed the car and results began to improve, with Kovalainen finishing eighth in Germany, fifth in Hungary and his best result of the season, a fourth place at the European Grand Prix. This was followed by back-to-back sixth places at Spa and Monza, and seventh in Singapore. He ended the season with 22 points having had five retirements, this left him in 12th position in the championship. On 18 November it was announced that recently crowned world champion Jenson Button had been signed on a multi year deal as Hamilton's team mate leaving Kovalainen without a 2010 F1 drive.
It was announced on 14 December 2009, that Kovalainen would drive for Lotus Racing in 2010 along with Jarno Trulli. The team made their debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix on 14 March 2010. The car was off the pace in pre-season testing, due to a lack of downforce caused by the need for a conservative initial design. Kovalainen finished in fifteenth position in the race, two laps down on winner Fernando Alonso.
In Australia, Trulli did not start the race and Kovalainen finished 13th. In Malaysia, Kovalainen retired with 10 laps to go, and followed this up with fourteenth in China, while in Spain Kovalainen failed to start with gearbox problems. He retired in Monaco with steering problems, and in Turkey with hydraulic problems. Kovalainen finished 16th in Canada, 2 laps down.
At Valencia on lap 9 Mark Webber's Red Bull hit Kovalainen's Lotus and went over the top, before landing and skidding into the barrier. Kovalainen recovered to the pits but retired from the race. A 17th place finish at Silverstone and a fourteenth in Hungary sandwiched his fourth retirement of the season in Germany, due to damage caused by a collision with Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa. He retired yet again at the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix after his car caught fire in the final lap, although his decision to not go into the pit lane and instead stop at the side of the track and tackle the blaze himself was met with applause from the crowd.
Kovalainen remained with Lotus in 2011. At the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, he was forced to retire after a water leak, before recording his first finish of the season in Malaysia where he finished 15th, before a 16th place finish in China. He finished 19th in Turkey and crashed out in Spain, having started from 15th on the grid, outqualifying the Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil. He finished 14th in Monaco and 19th at the European Grand Prix, with further retirements in Canada and Great Britain. Kovalainen finished 16th at the German Grand Prix, before another retirement due to a water leak in Hungary. Kovalainen then finished each of the next five races, with a best placing of 13th at the Italian Grand Prix. He also finished on the lead lap, in 18th place at the Japanese Grand Prix, and finished ahead of the Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez in Korea, in 14th place. In India, Kovalainen finished 14th again, running as high as tenth place during the race.
During the season, Kovalainen outqualified team-mates Trulli and Karun Chandhok in 17 out of the 19 races held, and Team Lotus principal Tony Fernandes stated that he was satisfied with Kovalainen's performance over the season.
Kovalainen was retained by the team – renamed Caterham F1 for 2012 – for a third year, partnering Vitaly Petrov. This season was more stable, as Kovalainen finished all races but the initial Australian Grand Prix.
Kovalainen and Petrov were dropped in favour of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde ahead of the 2013 season, but Kovalainen remained on good terms with Caterham, attending the Malaysian Grand Prix as a personal guest of Tony Fernandes. Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the team announced that it had re-signed Kovalainen as one of its reserve drivers, replacing Ma Qing Hua and alongside Alexander Rossi, in which role he will take part in the first free practice sessions in Bahrain and Spain.
On 14 November 2013 it was confirmed by the Lotus F1 Team that Kovalainen would stand in for regular driver Kimi Räikkönen as Räikkönen is having back surgery. Kovalainen raced at the United States Grand Prix and the Brazilian Grand Prix. He finished 14th in both races.
Complete Formula One resultsEdit
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
† Did not finish, but was classified as he had completed more than 90% of the race distance.