Just a strange dream

I saw a strange dream
Nico was there
We were in one team
Caps flew through the air

He answered some questions
About scrubbed Q2 tyres
Weird Q3 sessions
And wind in the wires

Red Bull had wings
But still could not fly
Jean helped them with things
Don’t ask me why

There were feisty drivers
In the shiny new teams
And some naked divers
As I said, it’s a dream

Too soon to stop dreaming
Too late to wake up
Too tired to start screaming
Too addicted to stop

Bernie’s still here
Long live the king
The end is still near
So let Elton sing

Let Daniel keep dancing
Let the weather be bad
F1 is still fancy
No need to be sad

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Has Germany fallen out of love with F1?

Right now, we should probably be reading the 2015 German Grand Prix previews. The event was originally scheduled this weekend but had to be called off because the “the CRH [commercial rights holder] and promoter did not reach agreement”.

I believe that F1 fans already know the main reasons. F1 race hosting fees have become unbearably high and promoters without government support find it harder and harder even to break even, let alone make money. It means that they are increasingly outbid by wealthy dictators who do not care about profit and are willing to pay the FOM huge sums to get lots of airtime for themselves and their countries. At the same time, spectators cannot afford the expensive tickets and vote with their feet.

However, the situation is not the same in all countries as there are still some traditional races (such as Australian or British GP) that at least manage to get full grandstands. The level of people’s interest about F1 differs between countries, too. That is why I believe that there are more reasons for demise of F1 in Germany.

Why are the fans switching channels?

Despite the fact that Germany has certainly not lacked championship winning drivers, teams and engines over the last 20 years, it is not only the number of German Grand Prix visitors that has reduced. F1’s TV audience in the country has decreased from around 10 million viewers in the Schumacher’s heyday to slightly more than 4 million in 2014/15. Unlike the fans in the UK or France, Germans can still watch all F1 races live free-to-air in Germany. So what makes them turn away from F1? I can only guess but here are some of the possible explanations.

Firstly, almost every fandom needs their local hero. I believe that Rosberg has never been seen as a superstar in Germany and Mercedes have never been seen as German. Vettel has always been admired in Germany but his popularity still cannot be compared to ‘Schumania’. As Ecclestone has said, he is not “100 percent star material”. There are also doubts about Vettel’s true quality as many believe that he always won the title with the best car, unlike Schumacher. No part of the last sentence is necessarily true but, as the saying goes, perception is everything. It is also obvious that Vettel simply came after Schumacher. In other words, the first time is always special and everything that follows after that is just a sequel. Is it possible that the German fans are simply tired of winning or even F1 in general?

Secondly, the free-to-air coverage of F1 in Germany is relatively mediocre and often loathed by hardcore fans. RTL’s team of presenters and commentators has remained pretty much the same since 1997; it also still includes Niki Lauda, who is supposed to (but obviously cannot) provide the audience with unbiased analysis. I would not say that their coverage is outrageously bad but it is rather superficial and does not pay attention to details. It is also very focused on the German drivers. The leaders are not forgotten either but do not expect an interview with, let us say, Romain Grosjean there. Long story short, it fails to inspire and educate fans, who would want to know more than if Vettel is going to win the race or not and how many pit stops he is about to make.

Thirdly, could the general state of German motorsport be to blame? Don Dahlmann, a German F1 blogger, says that this is the case. He believes that DTM is too ‘clinical’, GT Masters too lost in their ‘balance of performance’ rules and VLN too unreachable. In his opinion, Germany misses series like the BTCC. The recent death of a spectator at Nurburgring definitely did further damage to the image of the local motorsport in the country.

High prices, low service quality

Several circuits offer spectators a lot of off-track entertainment, such as concerts or an ‘action zone’. There was little of that at Hockenheimring a year ago. I was there and this was their idea of entertainment:

As for tickets, the pricing model is inflexible and outdated, compared to Silverstone or Melbourne. What is more, I did not receive my tickets at first despite ordering them on the circuit’s official website. After a few months of waiting (they had promised to send the tickets in a couple of weeks) I contacted them. After two more weeks, they replied to me that “we get them back because the address where wrong” but I know for sure that I had indicated the right address. Luckily, I received the tickets after all.

Has Germany lost it?

It is pretty clear that Hockenheimring’s facilities need to be upgraded. Last year it was extremely hot on Saturday but you could not even find a place to hide from the scorching heat – the fans, who did not have tickets at covered grandstands, were desperately looking for the shades of the trees and bushes.

Unfortunately, Germans have not been very good at big building projects lately. Nurburgring is a well-known example of that in F1 fraternity. The renovation project ‘Nurburgring 2009’ was far too ineffective; it involved fraud and resulted in financial trouble as well as several prison sentences. The same thing is happening to objects that are not related to motorsports, such as the new Berlin airport or Stuttgart’s new railway station. So it is possible that the inability to properly upgrade Nurburgring and Hockenheimring to modern standards has something to do with the state of the German economy and bureaucracy, too.

Where do we go from here?

So will F1 remain free-to-air in Germany and will the German Grand Prix go on? We do not know. RTL’s agreement with FOM ends this year and the broadcaster is reportedly trying to reduce the yearly price of broadcasting the sport from around 50 million Euros to 30-35 million. The most recent reports claim that an agreement is close but there has been no announcement so far.

The same can be said about the German Grand Prix. It has been included in the provisional 2016 calendar but it does not mean the race will necessarily happen. Hockenheimring’s official website has not published any information about the event so far.

But there is no escaping the fact that the Germans themselves will have to try harder if they want to stop the downfall of F1 in their country. It is unlikely that FOM will lend a helping hand to keep the German GP alive and the successes of Vettel and Mercedes are most probably not enough to bring the lost fans back to the TV screens.

Memories of a Kovalainen fan

On Friday, he finally retweeted one of my tweets and replied to it. I was just having a usual conversation with Sergio, a hardcore Heikki fan from Spain; we both were exchanging pictures of our Kovalainen caps. Then he unexpectedly replied to both of us:

I hope you can forgive me for being an ecstatic fangirl for a few moments. Actually I believe that this tweet will keep encouraging me for some time.

I cannot really explain why I became a fan of Heikki Kovalainen but I remember exactly when it happened. I was a Michael Schumacher fan until the German’s first retirement at the end of 2006 and then could not find anyone else to support at first. A year later, I decided to put a Renault flag on my bedroom wall because I kind of liked Alonso. However, when Fernando was fighting with Heikki during the first Grand Prix of 2008, I immediately wanted the Finn to win this fight. That was it. I replaced my Renault flag with a McLaren flag quite soon.

I had not paid much attention to Kovalainen during his debut season even though I remember that he kind of failed to meet the high expectations at first and then came back strongly in the second half of the year. But I know that I was happy about McLaren’s decision to hire him after Fernando Alonso had left the team.

The highlight of the 2008 season was obviously the Hungarian Grand Prix as Felipe Massa retired with a smoking engine and it took me a few seconds to realise, who was leading the race… I was jumping up and down like a kid.

The first time I saw Kovalainen driving was at Nurburgring on July 11, 2009. After watching every Formula 1 race on TV for more than ten years, I was finally able to go to a Grand Prix myself. It was a really cold and misty weekend but I could not be happier – I was at a race and could even follow my favourite driver’s progress in the race via a special device called Kangaroo TV. The spectators in the stands stood up and I put my fist in the air as Heikki made a great start and jumped to third. He finished the race eighth but it was a solid result given the quality of that McLaren. I had taken several pictures of my hero and was a happy bunny on that Sunday night.

In 2009, I also participated in a predictions championship organized by Kovalainen’s unofficial website – I won the competition and got a signed A4 picture of Heikki.

For sure, 2009 was not an easy year for Heikki. The partnership with McLaren just did not work and Hamilton’s status at the team did not make things easier. Incidentally, I was also going through tough times in my life at the end of that year so we both needed a fresh start.

When Kovalainen joined the new Lotus team, I was thinking “Well, at least this should be fun.” And so it was. While this partnership brought no points, Kovalainen certainly became more relaxed during those years and regained his self-confidence. My loyalty to Heikki was stronger than ever and I was still buying Kovalainen fan articles and wearing a Lotus / Caterham cap during my visits to Spa in 2011 and 2012.

Two caps, a Caterham mug, a model car (McLaren MP4-23), two keyrings, a mousepad and a signed pic

My “Kovalainen collection”: Two caps, a Caterham mug, a model car (McLaren MP4-23), two keyrings, a mousepad and a signed pic

My favourite moment from Kovalainen’s years at Lotus/Caterham was the qualifying of the 2012 Bahrain GP. I went crazy when he beat Michael Schumacher’s time by 0.013s and made it to Q2. The saddest moment was when he spun right in front of my eyes during the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix – I was literally screaming and grabbing my head. All of this just proves that a driver does not have to fight for victories or even points to make fans crazy for him.

Heikki replies to my question during the 2012 pre-season testing (the AUTOSPORT guy got my name wrong... grr).

Heikki replies to my question during the 2012 pre-season testing (the AUTOSPORT guy got my name wrong… grr).

The Internet has helped me get to know other Kovalainen fans – Jari from Finland, Kiril from Belarus, Sergio from Spain, Boštjan from Slovenia, Benjamin from France and several other guys and girls from other parts of the world. I surely would have missed a lot if I had not met them.

Why do I like him so much? It is really hard to explain but maybe it is a combination of his no-bullshit attitude, his kindness, his sense of humour, his sportsmanship and the fact that he does not judge other people, he just accepts them.

I like several other drivers, too. I wanted Lewis Hamilton to win the championship last year, have a poster of his car on my wall now and a Mercedes cap and a T-shirt in my drawer. But it is different. Heikki Kovalainen will always have a special place in my heart.

I really hope to see him driving in the WEC, WTCC, DTM or elsewhere. I know that he has always wanted to be an F1 driver but it could be a start of something great… for both of us.

Bianchi

When the Japanese Grand Prix was red-flagged, I was chatting with my family. We were discussing the results of the Latvian parliamentary election held on the previous day as I had lost any interest to follow the misery that was the Japanese Grand Prix. Some laps earlier, I had concluded that this was the worst race of the season.

The biggest frustration before Bianchi’s crash was watching the race start behind the safety car. Everybody knew the weather forecast. Everybody expected this to happen. No one did anything to prevent it by changing the start time to Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. Suzuka is one of the best circuits in the world but the race was turned into a tragic mockery and no one had done anything to try to avoid it.

What happened after October 5 did not bring any relief either and I am not talking only about the lack of good news from the hospital as we at least new that Bianchi was alive. What F1 needed was an encouragement, a reminder why risking drivers’ lives every other weekend is not worthless. What F1 got was a Putin Grand Prix and Bianchi’s team going into administration.

So why do talented F1 drivers put their lives on the line? To give the likes of Putin more exposure and wait for either the downfall of their teams or a notice that they have been replaced by a big pay cheque because the wealthiest sport in the world cannot get its act together? It is sad to think that Bianchi would have been forced to race for Putin a week after the Japanese GP, then sit out the rest of the year and settle for a reserve driver role in 2015 if he had escaped that horrendous crash.

Right after the crash, I was angry at those in charge of F1 and the particular race. I did not agree with those, who were claiming that the risk of death was part of the thrill in F1. I wanted to know more details of the crash; I did not agree with those, who said that the FIA would take care of everything and that the others just had to shut up. I am not a tabloid reader but I had many questions and I wanted to hear answers.

I have to admit that the FIA’s report gave a lot of those answers. Still, it is too obvious that one of its objectives is to cover the FIA’s butts. The report recommends changing many rules, yet it refuses to admit that any of the current rules, safety standards or practices in F1 is incomplete or wrong, which is absurd.

I agree that it is always easier to point the finger at someone with the benefit of hindsight but let us not forget that some people are paid to make sure that F1 is as safe as possible. It is their daily job to evaluate the potential risks and look for solutions. If we do not demand responsibility from them, then what is the difference between F1 and Putin’s Russia where stuff happens all the time but the leader is never wrong?

I do not think that saying that Bianchi was driving too fast under double waved yellow flags is wrong or disrespectful. We should never be afraid to hear the truth. The problem is that it is not the whole truth and half-truths are usually not a good way to start making things better. Still I hope that F1 will be able to learn from what happened at Suzuka even if the authorities refuse to openly admit their mistakes.

Coincidentally, I watched “1: Life on the Limit” just a couple of days before the Japanese GP. One of the final scenes of the movie is a compilation of scary crashes that drivers survived unscathed. It is deceiving. One should not believe that F1 is now safe enough and the focus should be on the things that still have to be improved.

I still believe that Bianchi’s accident was avoidable. Even if it was not, the authorities did not do enough to try to avoid it and the aftermath of the Japanese GP leaves a lot to be desired.

Now, two months after that dark day, Bianchi is in his home country, no longer in the artificial coma, breathing unaided but still unconscious. It is what it is. All we can do is send our best wishes to Bianchi’s family, hope and pray for him.

I really enjoyed watching the 2014 F1 season but to me this year will always have two sides. On the one side, there are Hamilton and Rosberg battling wheel-to-wheel. On the other side, there are the dark clouds over Suzuka and F1.

Our big fans

One of the most memorable quotes from Queer as Folk comes from a supporting character. When introduced to a lesbian couple, Daphne says: “I’m not a lesbian but I’m a big fan.” Unfortunately you do not see much of Daphne throughout the series as it is focused on the LGBT characters and a few of their enemies.

Do we, the LGBT people, pay enough attention to the straight fans of our community?

The world of today often allows us to choose who we want to be with and what we want to read and hear. For sure, you have to earn your living and do your job even if it is a pain in the neck at times and you also usually do not ignore your family. That said, the internet and social media as well as bars, cafes and stores in many countries allow you to spend your free time in a “gay ghetto” if you want to. However, I believe that you lose a lot if you spend time only with people, who are just like you.

There is no doubt that we need Ellen DeGeneres, Dustin Lance Black, Tom Daley, Davey Wavey and Brent Everett. We need ILGA, Stonewall and Transgender Europe. We need lawyers and human rights activists, who strive for equal marriage and anti-discrimination laws. But it is as important to have straight friends, who will not wave the rainbow flag but still stand by our community and make us feel comfortable. And these friends can be found anywhere, including the F1 community.

I am happy to have met a lot of heterosexual F1 fans from the Netherlands, the UK, India and other parts of the world, who are supportive of LGBT rights and oppose any policies that discriminate people on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. I am proud to call these people my friends even if I have never met them in person. I was positively surprised by the amount of support that I got when I posted my thoughts on these issues on F1 Fanatic. Of course, there have been other reactions as well, but hey, even LGBT people have different views on their own rights.

I guess there are people, who perfectly agree with me on LGBT rights but are irritated by some of my views on F1. But that is how it should be. I would much rather spend my time arguing why I think that Rosberg is better than Webber than replying to “I have nothing against gays BUT…” for a thousand times.

F1 journalists and bloggers have not been talking much about LGBT-related issues but there are a few encouraging exceptions. Will Buxton had a nice article about diversity last year, RichardsF1 published an in-depth analysis of the career of the only known gay F1 driver, a Jalopnik contributor did not mince words as he condemned Ecclestone’s homophobia and F1 Fanatic have often included LGBT-related articles or comments in their round-ups. The latter website is very special to me. The owner of F1 Fanatic is probably the liberals’ answer to Bernie Ecclestone, that is, he is a guy, who can get things done but without being a dick.

If you wanted to donate money to help LGBT people, you would think of human rights organisations at first. But I believe that a donation to someone, who is no LGBT rights activist but openly supports us, is not less worthy. Our big fans can reach people, who do not follow the likes of Stop Homophobia on Twitter. They use their money and efforts to make this world a better place. They help create an environment where everyone feels safe, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And it is what we all want, isn’t it?

What does it feel like to be a gay F1 fan?

I have often thought about the connection between my sexuality and the sport that has been my biggest passion since 1997. Interestingly, I started realising that I was “different” at about the same time when I discovered F1.

Thanks to the internet, I have met many gay and bisexual motorsport fans over the last years so now I know that I am not the only gay guy, who prefers F1 to figure skating and diving, which are much more often associated with homosexuality.

One of my American friends runs a website and a podcast for gay motorsport (mainly NASCAR) fans, queers4gears.com. He says that he wants to bring new fans to the sport. It certainly is an interesting concept. The barriers keep falling and just like (most) people have come to understand that God created women not only for the kitchen, people are starting to realize that gay men have very different interests.

I believe that your sexuality has impact on how you see the world, including F1. For instance, I can get quite emotional when watching F1 or talking about it. I have always been interested in the emotional side of the sport, more than in the technical stuff. To me, F1 serves also as an escape from the world, which is not always a nice place to be if you are gay and live in a former Soviet Republic. That said, all these things could be said about a lot of straight F1 fans, too.

For sure, F1 drivers are young, fit and good-looking men and I notice that. But I do not watch F1 because of hot drivers and I never choose my favourite F1 drivers based on their looks. Well, I follow F1_Hotties on Twitter and cute drivers will catch my eye but there are at least one hundred more important reasons why I love F1. When I see drivers standing on the podium or doing interviews, I do not think of them as hunks, I think of them as human. For the record, I also do not want grid girls to be replaced by grid boys.

It would be good to see a couple of openly gay drivers in F1, just like it would be nice to see Chinese F1 drivers, female F1 drivers and transgender F1 drivers. I think F1 would profit from more diversity but it is not an end in itself. Drivers should be in F1 on merit, period. However, it is important to send a clear message that everyone is welcome in F1, including the LGBT people.

I am not happy to read rather homophobic remarks from Bernie Ecclestone, Niki Lauda or Stirling Moss even though that does not mean that I do not appreciate the great things that these men have done in / for the sport. People will always have different opinions but I am missing contrary statements where an F1 driver, a team owner or Jean Todt would say: “I am with the LGBT community and I fully support equal rights for everyone”. I am sure that most people involved in F1 are not homophobic but it would be nice to see some open support.

I would like to see FIA, FOM and the teams taking a more proactive approach to supporting human rights. When you google “F1 gay”, you should find something better than news that Ecclestone supports Putin on gay rights issue or that Lotus fired their PR chief because of a gay kiss tweet.

I do care about lack of gay rights in some of the countries that host F1 races, such as Malaysia or Russia. What is more, if a country discriminates LGBT people, it always discriminates several other groups of society, too. F1 should not be afraid to talk about human rights just like it was not afraid to stand up against racism after Lewis Hamilton had been subjected to racist abuse. If you ignore a problem, it sooner or later comes back and bites you anyway.

Nevertheless, while I pay more attention to some aspects of F1 than the average spectator, I do not think that I am that much different from the other fanatics. Just like them, I love nothing more than being in the grandstands; I read F1 news every day, form my opinions and cannot wait for the next race to come.

I feel attracted to men. Still, if anyone asked me if I was gay, I would tell them: “No, I am a Formula 1 fan.”

Heikki Kovalainen’s top 10 F1 races

Just like a year ago, Heikki Kovalainen is without a contract for the upcoming season and his chances to stay in F1 are unclear. The last two races at Lotus as replacement for Kimi Raikkonen were rather difficult. His only option for 2014 seems to be Caterham but he faces competition from several other drivers, who can offer some sponsorship.

At times like this it’s perhaps easy to forget the many brilliant drives that Kovalainen has delivered for every team he has driven for. Here is a recap of his greatest races.

2007 Canadian Grand Prix – 4th

The 2007 F1 season had not started well for the Finnish rookie. The pressure to deliver was high as he had replaced none less than Fernando Alonso at the Renault team. However, the car was not nearly as competitive as in the team’s championship years and Kovalainen’s own performances also were not good enough in the first races of the year.

The first two days of the Canadian Grand Prix did not suggest that this weekend would be any better as Kovalainen crashed twice during free practice and qualifying. Moreover, he was forced to start last after a massive engine failure in the third practice.

But a chaotic race, which included four safety car periods, and an inspired drive by Kovalainen resulted into an excellent fourth place finish. “I seemed to spend a lot of the afternoon overtaking other cars, but we had changed the set-up before qualifying to give me better straightline speed and that definitely paid off,” admitted Kovalainen after the race.

2007 United States Grand Prix – 5th

Just one week later, Kovalainen delivered an even stronger performance. Having qualified a strong sixth, he overtook Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at the start and even shortly led the race before his first pit stop.

Kovalainen was not able to keep Raikkonen behind during the pit stops but he gained one place when Nick Heidfeld retired because of a hydraulics problem. „This was another strong result for me, and I am starting to get some good momentum now,” said Kovalainen.

2007 Japanese Grand Prix – 2nd

Already before the Japanese Grand Prix, Kovalainen had established himself as the leading driver in the team against Giancarlo Fisichella. He had recorded six consecutive points finishes (points were awarded to the top eight then) but the best was yet to come.

Just like Canada, this was another chaotic race. The rainy conditions forced the race control to start it behind a safety car. There were spins, collisions and crashes all over the field. Alonso crashed out of the race and so did Mark Webber as Sebastian Vettel ran into the back of the Red Bull during the second safety car period. On a day when almost everyone seemed to be making mistakes under very tricky conditions, Kovalainen did not put a foot wrong. He ran a very long first stint and briefly led the race again.

In the final laps, Raikkonen had caught his compatriot but couldn’t find a way past. „I think this was a good way to do it: in difficult conditions, at a tricky race, fighting all the way to the end and beating Ferrari in a straight fight. I am very happy with my race,” Kovalainen summed up his performance.

2008 Malaysian Grand Prix – 3rd

Kovalainen’s McLaren stint was not a success and he could not challenge Lewis Hamilton, his phenomenal team mate, often enough. But the start of his relationship with the team was actually very promising.

In the previous race, the Australian Grand Prix, the Finn had been denied of a well-deserved podium finish by an untimely safety car period. In Malaysia, the qualifying was far from perfect as he earned a five place grid penalty for blocking Heidfeld and Alonso. Still, he was 8th on the grid, having outqualified Hamilton.

The race day went much better. Kovalainen made up one place at the start and climbed up to fourth at the first stops. Felipe Massa’s retirement let him score his maiden podium for McLaren.

2008 Hungarian Grand Prix – 1st

There were several races in 2008 where Kovalainen could have been in the hunt for victory but misfortune often played its part. For instance, he had to start from the pit lane at Monaco after the car’s engine had stalled on the grid and Raikkonen’s front wing punctured Kovalainen’s left rear tyre at the start of the Turkish Grand Prix.

In Hungary, he finally nailed it. Kovalainen was second on the grid but Felipe Massa made an excellent start, overtaking both McLarens and leaving the Finn third. After Hamilton got a puncture and Massa suffered an engine failure, Kovalainen was there to take the lead.

It is true that Kovalainen lucked into his maiden (and so far only) F1 victory. But it is also undeniable that it was only a fair compensation for all the times when the car or some circumstances let him down. “It could have happened in many other races, there was always an opportunity but it didn’t happen,” he said.

2010 Chinese Grand Prix – 14th

When the new Lotus team joined the grid, the expectations were understandably low and even finishing a race was considered to be a success. After all, the team had been started from a scratch only a few months ago and with a tiny budget.

But already the fourth race of the season offered them an opportunity to beat one of the established teams and Kovalainen grabbed it. He had qualified behind Jarno Trulli, his new team mate, but stayed out on dry tyres when a lot of drivers made the wrong decision to switch to intermediates.

Kovalainen even ran sixth at one point. He inevitably slipped down the order later but still managed to finish nine seconds ahead of Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg. It was a nice reward for a faultless drive under difficult conditions.

2010 Canadian Grand Prix – 16th

Kovalainen managed to outqualify his team mate and the other “new guys” and was only two tenths behind Sauber’s Kamui Kobayshi. He ran as high as 10th before the first pit stops and managed to keep Vitaly Petrov behind for nine laps at the end of the race, even though the Renault driver had fresher tyres and Robert Kubica’s pace suggested that the Renault could go up to five seconds a lap quicker than the Lotus.

Even though that wasn’t his highest finish of the season (Kovalainen finished 12th in Japan a few months later), it was probably the most eye-catching performance of the year. “It’s been a great weekend, and I’m really pleased for the whole team with the result today. We finished ahead of Petrov and lapped the other new guys,” said a happy Kovalainen after the race.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix – 16th

2011 was probably Lotus/Caterham’s best year. The team was convincingly ahead of both other new teams, managed to annoy the established competitors now and then and there was a lot of optimism within the team.

The Chinese Grand Prix marked the first time Lotus managed to beat two midfield cars. As usual, Kovalainen outqualified Trulli and the increased air temperatures on Sunday as well as a clever two-stop strategy helped him finish ahead of Williams’ Pastor Maldonado and Sauber’s Sergio Perez.

Kovalainen was overwhelmed by the result: “That is our best ever performance. It’s not the highest place we’ve had but today we beat two midfield cars in a straight fight so I am very happy, with my performance and the performance of the whole team.”

2011 Korean Grand Prix – 14th

After a qualifying lap that Kovalainen himself had described as the best of the year, he made a great start from 19th and was already 15th at turn two. He was unable to keep the quicker cars behind in the first stint but a well-executed strategy helped him finish ahead of both Saubers and just a fraction behind Renault’s Bruno Senna.

Kovalainen believed it was the team’s strongest ever race: “We knew there were a few cars ahead who would struggle to get to the end, and if I’d had another half a lap I would have passed Senna for sure. As it was we finished ahead of both Saubers on pace and strategy and that’s a very good feeling.”

2012 Monaco Grand Prix – 13th

It was obvious that Caterham could not meet their own expectations in 2012. The team was still unable to fight with the established teams or battle for points finishes and beating Marussia and HRT was the only satisfaction it could get.

Still, the season had its highlights and the Monaco Grand Prix was one of them. Kovalainen made a good start from 18th and got ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button. Despite his best efforts, Button was unable to overtake the Caterham. The pit stops did not change anything and both drivers made contact as Button tried to pass the Finn on lap 71. Button’s front right tyre got punctured and he was forced to retire, while Kovalainen had to pit for a new front wing after another clash with Sergio Perez but still managed to finish 13th.

“When Heikki passed Jenson out of the pits, that was definitely the most exciting moment in my Formula 1 career and something that I will remember forever,” said Caterham boss Tony Fernandes after the race.