Apr.17 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Former team racer Heikki Kovalainen has rejoined Caterham’s F1 driver lineup.
The team announced on Wednesday that the Finn, who raced for the Tony Fernandes-owned outfit since its inception in 2010 until last year, will return to the cockpit this weekend in Bahrain.
Caterham said the highly rated 31-year-old, who has been keeping fit since being replaced by 2013 lineup Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, is the team’s new reserve driver alongside Carlifornian Alexander Rossi.
He will also drive in the first Friday practice sessions at the forthcoming Bahrain and Spanish grands prix.
Caterham said Kovalainen’s is a new “formal technical development role” ahead of “the first performance updates to the 2013 car, an important milestone in the strategy the team are working to in the current season”.
With Pic and van der Garde at the wheel of the green CT03, Caterham has fallen behind usual rivals Marussia so far in 2013.
“He (Kovalainen) has six years of F1 experience behind him so he is perfectly placed to provide us objective feedback on the various types of configurations we will run and to give us an objective view of the 2013 tyres against his experience with the 2012 compounds,” said team boss Cyril Abiteboul.
“Having invested in Heikki for our first three years of competition it would be a waste not to leverage the valuable expertise he brings.
“As F1 is a team sport, he will also provide support to Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, who are both doing a good job in their first months with the team,” he added.
Abiteboul said the driver shakeup was triggered by Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua’s practice run in Shanghai, whereafter “a number of new opportunities have arisen for him”.
Rossi is replacing Ma at Caterham’s GP2 team, but the Chinese “remains a core member of Caterham’s (F1) driver roster and an announcement about his (Ma’s) revised race plans in 2013 will be made in due course”.