Heikki Kovalainen’s management has reportedly been invited to Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters to discuss his options for the 2013 season and beyond. According to reports in Kovalainen’s homeland, the Finn’s promising showings with the Caterham team have now turned him into a likely candidate to replace Felipe Massa.
Despite the hugely impressive performance of Ferrari-contracted Sergio Pérez last time out at the Italian Grand Prix (in which he boldly overtook Fernando Alonso to claim second place), the team has been swift to reject suggestions that the young Mexican is ready to race for Ferrari.
Word on the street is that Alonso – who has the final say in the identity of his team-mate under the terms of his contract – feels Pérez is too much of a threat, and that being paired alongside him would severely undermine his position in the team.
And so Kovalainen enters the mix. Kovalainen is no stranger to working with Alonso, with the two having been part of the Renault F1 stable in the mid-2000s when the Finn served as one of the team’s development drivers.
After a wild start to his F1 career, Kovalainen settled down and picked up a podium at the Japanese Grand Prix.
He was a late sign-up to McLaren ahead of the 2008 season – making a straight swap with Alonso, who exited his multi-year McLaren deal after a single season – and was largely put in the shade by up-and-coming team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
His 2009 season saw a major dip in performance. Unable to gel with the tricky MP4-24, he finished a lowly twelfth in the championship standings and his contract was not renewed.
Since 2010, he’s been the lead driver with Lotus Racing / Team Lotus / Caterham, and has occasionally delivered some standout performances despite the obvious shortcomings of the cars he’s been given to drive.
But it’s widely felt that the 30-year-old deserves much more than what the Leafield-based team is able to provide him, and there have been rumours for some time that he was looking to move to a team further up the grid.
That opportunity could perhaps come up at Ferrari, but the problem with it, if he’s given an offer and takes it, is that he will cement his position as a capable ‘number-two’. Granted, he’s never really shown the kind of form in his earlier years that would suggest he was a regular F1 winner, and now he’s consigned to a Caterham with no hope of scoring a point this year.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, developments come of this. We’ll keep you posted.