Heikki Kovalainen’s Formula 1 career is one that could’ve been so much more successful, had he not moved to the Caterham F1 Team.
The Finnish driver surprised the paddock in 2007, when he performed strongly for the Renault F1 Team in his debut season, alongside Giancarlo Fisichella.
The Finn scored his first F1 podium during his rookie campaign, after finishing second-place at the Japanese Grand Prix.
At the end of his rookie season, Kovalainen had offers from both Toyota and McLaren, with the latter due to Fernando Alonso leaving the side to go back to Renault.
The Finn opted to go to McLaren for 2008, where he drove alongside Sir Lewis Hamilton, who won the championship that season.
The 40-year-old claimed his first F1 win during 2008, at the Hungarian Grand Prix, which would turn out to be the only win of his F1 career.
Kovalainen remained with the British side in 2009; however, fired manager Flavio Briatore late in the season.
The Finnish driver fired his manager, after the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix ‘crashgate’ report was made public.
Briatore was the managing director of Renault the year Nelson Piquet Jr crashed purposely in Singapore, so that team-mate Alonso could win the race.
As well as being sacked by Kovalainen, Briatore was banned by F1, meaning he couldn’t enter the paddock.
However, the ban was lifted relatively soon after in 2010, after Kovalainen had signed a deal with the Caterham F1 Team (known as Lotus Racing in 2010).
The new team struggled throughout their few years in the sport, with Kovalainen regularly featuring at the back of the grid.
The Finnish driver left the sport at the end of 2012, when he was dropped by the team
He went on to drive for Lotus for two rounds towards the end of 2013, due to Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen requiring surgery.
Ultimately, his move to Caterham was the downfall of his F1 career, with the Finn admitting it was “the biggest mistake” he’d ever made.
“It was the biggest mistake of my career,” Kovalainen told Viaplay.
“It would definitely have been worth staying on the same side of the table with Flavio rather than going to the other side of the table,” he smiled.
“When my McLaren contract was ending and I had to quickly get a new contract, while the drivers managed by Flavio did not have a super license at that point,” said Kovalainen.
Kovalainen’s career may have gone so differently had he waited a mere few months, with Briatore’s ban being lifted not long after it was initially awarded.
“If I had just waited until January of the following year, Flavio would have had his punishment reversed and he could have returned,” the Finn admitted.
“Yes, Flavio could have made better deals for me, and he had made the best deals of my career before that episode.”
With his F1 career firmly in the past, Kovalainen has turned to rallying, and currently competes in the All Japan Rally Championship.
The Grand Prix winner is adamant that rallying is what he’s “focused” on, after revealing his interest in the World Rally Championship.
“I’m 100 percent focused on rallying now,” he confirmed.
“I enjoy watching WRC – I stay up all night and day watching nowadays.”