Heikki Kovalainen admits that he wants to return to the front of the F1 field, but insists that he has no regrets about opting to drive for Caterham over teams with more potential.
The Finn is an F1 race winner, having taken victory in Hungary during his first season racing with McLaren in 2008, but has had his view of the field transformed since being dropped by the Woking squad just over a year later. Despite revealing that he was not short of offers to join teams further up the grid, he decided to try and rejuvenate his career by joining newcomer Lotus Racing, which subsequently became the current Caterham equipe
“I had other options, but not with any big teams,” Kovalainen told Brazil's TotalRace
website, "They were teams that were in the middle of the pack, [but] I didn't see any great opportunity, so I preferred to go with a brand new team.
“[Joining Caterham] was a risky move, but I don't see that I would have been in a much better situation had I chosen a middle [of the grid] team. I chose to start from scratch, changing my routine, my training - basically everything. For me, choosing to start with a new team made me a better person, a better driver.”
While stepping back to step forward is not a new phenomenon in F1 - think Giancarlo Fisichella at Force India, Nick Heidfeld at Jordan and Jarno Trulli at Lotus Racing as examples with varying success - Kovalainen's performances in 2011 and 2012 have re-opened the eyes of team bosses further up the grid, leading to suggestions that he could be swapping green-and-gold for a different livery in 2013.
“I want to go back to always fighting for the podium, but I don't know what the future is for me - I don't have much to say about it [for now],” the Finn insisted, “However, at some point I'll have that conversation [with Caterham boss Tony Fernandes].”
Kovalainen's performances have also caught the eye of sections of the media, with Sky Sports F1
's Martin Brundle among those suggesting that the Finn has earned the chance to prove himself at a front-running team next season. Ironically, among those apparently on the 30-year old's list of possible destinations is Ferrari, where he is being touted as a potential replacement for Felipe Massa, who earlier this month ruled out joining a back-of-the-grid team in order to prolong his F1 career.
“Heikki has just kept his head down and delivered, he looks a superstar and he drives like one," Brundle opined, “I think he has staked a claim for another chance in a top team."