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Heikki Kovalainen

Formula 1 driver

Heikki Kovalainen
Credit: LAT
Vital statistics for Heikki Kovalainen
NationalityFIN
BirthplaceSuomussalmi, Finland
Born19 October 1981
Age36
F1 debutAustralian Grand Prix, 2007

Heikki Kovalainen followed in Fernando Alonso's footsteps from his F1 debut in Renault, replacing the Spaniard, to taking up his spot in McLaren for 2008. Heikki moved to the Lotus team that became Caterham for three seasons, before finding himself without a race seat in 2013 - although they retained his services as test/development driver. He deputised for Räikkönen for two races in 2013, before leaving the sport altogether.

F1 biography

After several years in junior categories, Finnish racer Kovalainen started to get results. He finished third in the British Formula Three championship in 2002, and took home the World Series by Nissan title two years later. For 2006, he drove for the Arden International team in the GP2 series, losing out on the championship to Nico Rosberg, but picking up many trophies along the way. Formula One was the next step.

For the first three years of his career, Heikki Kovalainen was the driver that picked up where Fernando Alonso left off. He made his F1 debut at the Renault team, when the Spaniard had left to try his luck with McLaren. When that didn’t work out, and Alonso returned to Renault, it was Kovalainen who stepped up to McLaren. He remained with the Woking squad for two years, before finding himself without a race seat when McLaren brought in Jenson Button.

It was unlikely that Kovalainen could follow Alonso to Ferrari, and so the Finn found himself with a new team, then known as Lotus Racing. Heikki has played a big part in keeping the team best of the three new outfits that joined in 2010, and he’s been the key to their success - if you can count success as finishing 10th three years in a row. Kovalainen was ousted from the Caterham team at the end of 2012, but they brought him back as a reserve/development driver after just four races of the 2013 season.

For the final two rounds of 2013, Kovalainen moved to the Lotus Renault squad to race in place of an injured Kimi Räikkönen. At the end of the year, he was left without a race seat at either team. For the 2014 season, Heikki joined the BMW team as a test driver for their DTM efforts. After that, he joined the Super GT series, driving for Lexus.