Caterham team principal Cyril Abiteboul says he would be keen for former driver Heikki Kovalainen to stay with the team in a different role.
Kovalainen raced for the team between 2010 and 2012 but found himself out of a seat after the team signed Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, with Abiteboul that with his new drivers “obviously we are starting from scratch.”
“Heikki is not one of our two race drivers; we continue to have discussions with Heikki to see if a different project could be possible,” Abiteboul told Sky Sports News. “Let’s be honest: we’d be keen to keep experience in our line-up. That’s something we’d both be interested in under the right conditions. I would not undermine the importance of experience in general in F1.”
“I think Heikki did a particular career. I think it was interesting for us to think about the future, about people with lots of energy and appetite for something. Sometimes you also have to see the reality in truth, when you are at the end, or reaching the end.”
But Abiteboul was swift to add that he does not feel Kovalainen or Vitaly Petrov – their 2012 driver – have reached the end of their F1 careers.
“I don’t think Heikki or Vitaly [Petrov] are reaching the end of their careers – it’s not for me to say – but I think the particular project between Heikki and Caterham had to change its format. We’re looking right now to see whether another format is possible. The format we had in the last year was not working anymore.”
Abiteboul added that Caterham let Kovalainen down, with the relationship breaking down towards the end of 2012.
“Let’s be honest: I think we disappointed our drivers and let them down, in the sense that we under-delivered in comparison to the promises we made to them. And I think you can do that once, twice…with Heikki, I don’t think we did that for three years but this relationship has been going on for three years and this sort of thing damages relationships.”
“I think at a certain point at the end of last season, maybe there was not the sort of trust and confidence and respect – on both sides – that you should be counting on for the development of the team and driver.”
“Sometimes when you disappoint too much, you know the relationship is just…broken. This is the sort of point we’d reached with Heikki.”
“Of course he [Kovalainen] wasn’t happy with the progress. No-one was happy – the shareholders are not happy with the progress. So it’s about making sure we do better than that.”