|First race||Australian Grand Prix||Albert Park||March 18, 2007||Race results|
|Last race||Brazilian Grand Prix||Interlagos||November 24, 2013||Race results|
After stints with Renault and McLaren, Heikki Kovalainen had to acclimatise to life at the back of the grid in 2010 with Lotus. He had no illusions about the size of the challenge before he joined the brand new team, but it still came as a bit of a shock to be lapped by drivers he was racing alongside the season before. Nevertheless, his performances over the first two seasons with the team saw him stand out as one of the stars at the back of the grid.
In many ways the move to Lotus appeared to be what his career needed after living in the shadow of McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the previous two seasons. He never matched Hamilton and in 2009 the team started to grow impatient with his distinctly average performances.
The McLaren stint came after a debut F1 season with Renault, alongside Giancarlo Fisichella. He was a product of the Renault Driver Development programme, and had been testing for the team for three years. The constructor seemed bound to Kovalainen, who drove Renault-powered cars almost exclusively through his ascent to F1.
His climb through the sport was fairly linear, contrasting with fellow Finn, Kimi Raikkonen, who was launched straight from Britain's Formula Renault into a F1 drive. Kovalainen progressed from the same competition to the GP2 Series, via Formula Three and the World Series by Nissan, before finally making his F1 debut in 2007 at the age of 25.
Having joined the team as a driver, after three years' testing, he seemed the logical man to take the seat after world champion Fernando Alonso jumped ship to McLaren. Despite his testing experience he failed to fill Alonso's boots, however, and finished seventh before joining McLaren in a swap with Alonso.
McLaren seemed a better fit, with Kovalainen accumulating a respectable 53 points on the way to another seventh-place overall, including his one and only race win in Hungary. The 2009 season was somewhat of a backwards step, and despite both drivers struggling with an under-performing car, Kovalainen still remained very much in the shadow of team-mate Hamilton.
However, in 2011 Kovalainen went into the season as the team leader after outpacing Jarno Trulli for most of 2010. He raised his level another notch to comprehensively beat his team-mate, often outperforming the car to challenge and on occasion beat some of the more established midfield teams.
However, points remained out of reach for Caterham in 2012, and when Kovalainen missed out on a move to a bigger team his performances appeared to suffer. After some less impressive performances the team decided to focus on the 2014 regulations by bringing in Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, leaving Kovalainen without a drive for 2013.
With Marussia comfortably beating Caterham early in the year, even more importance was added to the team's major upgrades to be introduced at the Spanish Grand Prix, leading it to re-recruit Kovalainen as a reserve driver to work on car development. He was then handed an unexpected chance as he was drafted in to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the final two races of the season as his fellow Finn underwent back surgery.
Strengths and Weaknesses
He has proved to be one of the sport's most consistent performers, having scored points in 29 of the 43 races he finished before joining Lotus. Despite that record he has never really lived up to the raw talent he showed in the lower formula.
Profiting from a late retirement by Felipe Massa, Kovalainen scored his first F1 race win in Hungary in 2008.
A strong start to the 2008 season came crashing to a halt - literally - as Kovalainen went flying into a tyre wall at the Spanish Grand Prix. He was taken to hospital but escaped without serious injury, although his form dropped after that accident.
"It was always difficult to accept that Lewis was always the first to receive the new parts. I have never wanted to make a big deal out of it, but it would have been nice to just once to have the new parts on my car." Kovalainen bemoans McLaren's McLaren's favouritism towards Lewis Hamilton, 2009
"Heikki's performance? I think everyone could see on TV and I don't need to protect anyone, it was rubbish. What else can I say? If I tell you it was good then I'm a complete idiot." Renault boss Flavio Briatore was unhappy with Kovalainen's F1 debut in 2007
He was the first F1 driver to win the individual event at the Race of Champions, where drivers from various motorsport disciplines gather to compete. After his solo triumph in 2004 he also won the team championship for Finland in 2006 with rally driver Marcus Gronholm. Only Romain Grosjean has won the individual event since, being victorious in 2012.