F1: Heikki Kovalainen handed Lotus drive – for two races only

Former McLaren driver to replace fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen for remainder of season

austin

If you had to nominate the most disappointed driver at the Circuit of the Americas you could nominate Sergio Perez, who learned this week that he is being dumped by McLaren in favour of the rookie Kevin Magnussen for next season. But Davide Valsecchi would be pushing him close.

Valsecchi? He's the former GP2 champion who is Lotus's reserve driver. And for a while it seemed that he was going to step up and replace Kimi Raikkonen for the final two races of the season, starting with Sunday's US Grand Prix, after the Finn was forced to undergo surgery on his injured back.

This was after Michael Schumacher – yes, him – and then Nico Hulkenberg had turned down the Lotus drive. But then in bounced former Renault, Lotus and Caterham test driver Heikki Kovalainen.

It was Ferrari, where Raikkonnen will drive from next season, who decided that he ought to get his back fixed as soon as possible so as not to impact on his January test programme. Though there might be a little political manoeuvring in Ferrari getting Raikkonen to hospital, since his presence in a Lotus would undoubtedly have helped that team's challenge for the second place overall to Red Bull which Ferrari are also fighting for along with Mercedes. Valsecchi, though talented, has yet to drive a grand prix; Kovalainen has won one.

There are happy drivers here, however, none more so than Massa after signing for Williams – though Pastor Maldonado gracelessly cooed just how happy he is to be leaving that team.

Said Massa: "I feel like this is a new start. The team really wants me and what I can bring, and everything I have asked for, they have given me. I feel like I am really valued and that will make such a big difference to my racing next year."

It remains to be seen who goes to Lotus for 2014.

Heikki Kovalainen will replace fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen who is undergoing back surgery

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