Heikki Kovalainen has expressed his disappointment at not being able to score points in his two-race stand-in outing with Lotus, admitting that he underestimated the challenge of returning to racing after an absence of almost a year.
The Finn was drafted in by Lotus after Räikkönen elected to skip the final two Grands Prix to have surgery on his troublesome back ahead of his move to Ferrari next season.
While much was expected of the 32-year-old Caterham reserve driver – who was appointed ahead of the team’s own reserve driver, Davide Valsecchi – Kovalainen finished fourteenth at the United States Grand Prix and managed the same result (albeit a lap down) at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
On both occasions, a poor start off the line was a contributing factor to his poor finishing positions.
““It has been a great opportunity to drive for Lotus F1 Team and I’m upset that I was not able to score any points for them. I think the car is great, but I was not able to unlock the pace and make the most of it,” he said afterwards.
“I made some mistakes – probably through lack of routine – but I was anticipating it would be easier to come back and race competitively.
“My starts both here and in Austin were really poor, with procedural issues both times meaning I wasn’t able to keep pace with everyone off the line.
““That was disappointing as it’s such a big part of the race and it’s very difficult to recover positions. I’d like to thank everyone at Lotus F1 Team for all their support during these two races.”
Despite the disappointing showing, Kovalainen remains hopeful of making a full-time return to the Formula 1 grid next year. after spending much of the year out of the cockpit, aside from a handful of Friday practice outings for Caterham.
He is hotly tipped to secure a race seat with the Leafield-based squad, although he is believed to be competing with the likes of incumbent drivers Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic, as well as McLaren protégé Stoffel Vandoorne and GP2 driver Marcus Ericsson.