Heikki Kovalainen has issued a swift denial that just like team-mate Jarno Trulli, he too may find his Team Lotus seat under threat at some stage over the remainder of the F1 2011 campaign – emphatically insisting that such a scenario 'is not an option' and that he 'will not accept that my car is given to someone else'.
It was announced on the eve of this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring that Trulli – who has struggled for pace for much of this year, largely due to difficulties in getting to grips with the power steering system on the Renault-powered T128 – would be 'rested' for the race in favour of Team Lotus reserve driver Karun Chandhok [see separate story – click here
Schools of thought on the topic are that it is either a veiled warning to the veteran Italian to up his game, or else the 37-year-old former Monaco Grand Prix-winner was persuaded out of his cockpit for the weekend on the promise of a new deal for 2012. Either way, Kovalainen – who lapped well during Friday practice in Germany, placing 17th in FP1 and 18th in FP2 – is confident he will not find himself in a similar kind of situation.
“It is not an option,” the Finn told Turun Sanomat
. “There is no such agreement, and I will not accept that my car is given to someone else. I accept [having to vacate the car for a practice session], even though I don't really like it. If next year we are driving for points, then I think we should do all of the sessions, but right now, if you miss a practice it's not so critical.
“I'm pleased with today's performance – it was one of the good Fridays. We completed more laps than anyone else out there, and the car has felt good all day. I can feel that we have made a decent improvement to the back of the car, which helped us find a good balance pretty early on and it was working well on both tyre compounds, so this goes down as a good day's work.”
Chandhok, for his part, is expected to relinquish the #21 car again to its regular occupant Trulli for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring in a week's time – and may or may not return to the grid for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix at the end of October – but he palpably enjoyed his practice running at the Nürburgring, hoping that it might just have been the first step towards even bigger and better things to come.
“It's about building for the future,” the 27-year-old enthused. “I assume they want to see how we work together as a team. I admire [team principal] Tony Fernandes' vision to build a team of Asian people, drivers and engineers, and he seems very committed to the objective.
“Today was a good day of learning. The main area I've been looking at is the brakes – we use a different material here to my previous team, so I think that's why I've maybe ended up with quite a lot of square tyres! I had a few 'moments' under braking, and a couple of lock-ups, but that's what today was about – getting used to the tyres and the brakes and easing myself into a place where I can start to push.
“Over the day, I improved my time from this morning by over 1.5 seconds, so I'm pleased with that, and now I'll work with the engineers to find more time and keep pushing forwards tomorrow.”