After finishing forth at Vlencia, which represented his best finish all year, Heikki Kovalainen fans had something to cheer about. Not so fast. McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh says Kovalainen’s race pace is not good enough. That is somewhat of a daunting critique from the team boss considering you just finished the best you ever have all year long.
In a story at ITV, Whitmarsh suggests that Kovalainen’s out laps are where he is suffering. The idea of coming in with low fuel and hot tires and then leaving with the exact opposite car conditions seems to be throwing him off.
â€œHeikki has really raised his game and all weekend done a great job,â€ said Whitmarsh.
â€œHeâ€™s always a fantastic team player and a good asset in our team.
â€œBut his race pace hasnâ€™t been good enough, and if you look at the data now, it was his laps after the stop where he just couldnâ€™t effectively â€˜get on itâ€™ quickly enough.
â€œIn Formula 1 a driver has the great challenge of coming in with the car in a certain condition, getting the tyres and fuel load changed, and then going back out there and, bang, theyâ€™ve got to be straight on it.
â€œ[Kovalainenâ€™s] pace after the stops wasnâ€™t good.
â€œI think his pace from the middle to end of each section of the race was very competitive, and I think heâ€™s taken a big step forward.
â€œSo he should be satisfied that heâ€™s made some good progress but â€“ just as we as a team can make a quicker car and do a better job in the pit stops â€“ I think Heikki can look at his race pace at the start of each stint.â€
A difficult situation for the Finn as he is rumored to be leaving McLaren, silly season rumors of course so take little stock in them, but the prospects for next year may be better than years past. While BMW have announced their exit from Formula 1, three new teams will enter. Campos, Manor and USF1 could be options for the experienced driver but these teams are also the saving grace of many deposed F1 drivers of recent months and years.
Where does Heikki go? We learned the answer to “what’s the deal with Heikki?” but now we must find him a home. Suggestions?