Lotus is poised to announce Heikki Kovalainen as the replacement for his surgery-bound countryman Kimi Raikkonen for the last two races of 2013. It emerged earlier that the Enstone based team, despite having last year's GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi as its reserve driver, had made an offer to Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg turned it down, but it was a clear sign that Italian Valsecchi was not in fact the obvious favourite for the role, as Lotus tries desperately to improve its position in the lucrative constructors' championship despite Raikkonen's exit.
Team boss Eric Boullier told the Italian website blogf1.it: "We are fighting for third place in the constructors' championship so we need a driver with experience who is used to the struggle of winning points. I'm not saying that Davide doesn't deserve a chance, because he has done a great job and we are pleased with him. But he lacks the experience," Boullier added. Citing sources inside the Lotus team, blogf1.com said Finn Kovalainen will shortly be announced by Lotus as Raikkonen's replacement for the last two grands prix of 2013.
A former team driver in Enstone's works Renault days, Kovalainen is also a race winner for McLaren and has experience of this year's cars and tyres due to his Friday practice work with Caterham, for whom he raced between 2010 and 2012. "Heikki has been waiting for something like this," fellow Finn Mika Salo told MTV3 this week, "and if I was a team boss, I would take him rather than Valsecchi." (GMM)