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Heikki Kovalainen Q&A: Caterham drive remains 2014 target 14 Nov 2013

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus F1 and Alan Permane (GBR) Lotus F1 Race Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus F1 walks the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus F1 talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013

Life is full of surprises and Caterham tester Heikki Kovalainen certainly got one this week with a late call-up to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the final two rounds of 2013. Kovalainen, a seasoned F1 campaigner, is taking it all in his stride and is confident of a strong result in Austin. The Finn is not, however, getting carried away and insists a return to the grid with Caterham remains his primary goal for 2014…

Q: Heikki, are you surprised to suddenly find yourself as the replacement for Kimi Raikkonen?
Heikki Kovalainen:
Of course. I really didn’t plan that situation! (laughs) In fact I wasn’t planning to come to Austin at all and thought that I would spend a weekend casually at home before going to Brazil. But then late afternoon Tuesday changed all my plans when I got a call from Lotus. Of course I was interested straight away but I needed the release from Caterham that I got. Everything happened very quickly - and here I am.

Q: Tuesday to Thursday - that is indeed not a lot of time to grow into a completely new situation…
HK:
Indeed not. Yesterday I spent most of the day in Enstone at the Lotus factory to meet all the people and to spend a couple of hours in the simulator to get used to the procedures that are on the Lotus car. In the limited time that we had I think we managed to do quite a lot - if it is enough the weekend will show.

Q: You started you Formula One career at Renault, now Lotus, so you must have still seen many familiar faces at the factory - was that a relief?
HK:
It was, of course. But that will not be the issue. The issue will be how quickly I get used to the car and if I will be able to push it to the limit. But there I am very hopeful, as even when I have driven very little for Caterham this year I always felt comfortable in the car right away - so I hope for the same switch-on situation tomorrow in the Lotus.

Q: How helpful was it that Caterham gave you the chance to drive some Fridays this year?
HK:
I think it was crucial. Had I not done that I think (Lotus team principal) Eric (Boullier) would not have considered me stepping in for Kimi.

Q: What difference have you already discovered from yesterday to today?
HK:
On a larger scale not many differences. Of course Lotus has more people, is a larger team, but from the weekend schedule it is not much of a difference to what I was used to. Maybe slight differences in the procedure of the build-up for Sunday - but the main question will be how fast I will be able to push to the limit as the margins are very small.

Q: Is there pressure to deliver as the team is still in a fight over positions in the constructors’ championship? Do they expect results from you?
HK:
They absolutely do. But if I wasn’t convinced that I can deliver I would not have accepted it. I am optimistic - but only time will tell if that optimism was justified. I myself believe that I will perform well. I am long enough in Formula One and even if I haven’t driven this year I expect to perform well.

Q: How do you see these two races? Could it be a late chance for you to find a cockpit for next year, or is it more to prove to yourself that you still have what it takes to drive in F1 racing?
HK:
To be honest I haven’t thought a lot about it. I didn’t have time to get caught in these thoughts. I wanted to get back to racing - I never wanted to leave F1. Of course if I deliver a good result that could be a bonus, but I haven’t been speaking to Lotus about next year. The only team I have been talking seriously with about next year is Caterham and we are getting closer to the point where we are starting to agree on terms. Caterham would be the most likely option for me.

Q: So you can take the two races’ experience with Lotus as a ticket for a return to a Caterham cockpit in 2014…
HK:
I do not really think too much about it. I was long enough in Formula One to know that good and bad can happen to you without warning - so yes, I take it as a chance to get back into the racing mode - everything else we will see.

Q: What is it that you will focus on most? The tyres, the balance of the car…
HK:
It is to bring the car to the limit and keep it there over a race distance. And for this I only have a very limited warming-up phase.

Q: Will you do more laps tomorrow?
HK:
No, not more than usual as we are limited with the tyres so it would not make sense to burn tyres in practice and then be short when it really counts. All I can say is that I am pretty optimistic for the weekend and my whole focus will be to deliver a good result for the team.

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