The list of names in the frame to replace Kimi Raikkonen next season may get bigger after this weekend, especially if Heikki Kovalainen continues to produce the goods in Austin.

The younger Finn stepped into his countryman's cockpit in time for Friday free practice at the USGP, and has impressed so far, with a string of top ten results despite his lack of familiarity with the E21. With Lotus still chasing a top three place in the constructors' championship - one reason offered for the team's decision not to give official reserve divide Valsecchi a run in Austin and Brazil - Kovalainen was keen to join team-mate Romain Grosjean in the pole position shoot-out, and duly qualified eighth fastest.

The former Renault, McLaren and Caterham driver currently remains an outsider for the drive alongside Grosjean next season, with Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado thought to be ahead of anyone else. The German's candidature appears to rely on the consummation of a deal with the enigmatic Quantum Motorsports, which will provide the finance necessary to take a driver on ability alone. Maldonado, meanwhile, has access to PDVSA oil money.

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Kovalainen, of course, has famously claimed that he does not want to stoop to the level of 'pay driver', leaving himself on the sidelines for 2013 as Caterham felt obliged to hire two moneyed drivers, but his performances in the US and Brazil could yet bring him into the discussion for 2014.

"He can be an option," team boss Eric Boullier was quoted as telling Finnish broadcaster MTV3, "It's true that he was not originally on the list but, if he's doing well now, he can change our minds. Anything is possible."