After a reputation-denting two-year spell at McLaren, Heikki Kovalainen continues to find himself at the other end of the grid with the Caterham F1 team in 2012 yet his stock has never, arguably, been higher.
Like many on the F1 grid, the Finn began his motorsport career in the karting competitions and after picking a route through the junior categories he competed in the inaugural GP2 season of 2005, where he finished as runner-up to future F1 rival Nico Rosberg.
After impressing in a test role for Renault in 2006, he was promoted to a race seat for 2007. Initially the Finn found the going tough and was lambasted by team boss Flavio Briatore following a ragged debut in Australia. But Kovalainen really began to get into the groove from the summer onwards when he turned a qualifying crash into a strong fourth-place finish in Canada.
From there he never looked back, finishing in the points eight times in the next nine races, with the undoubted highlight a superb runner-up finish to Lewis Hamilton in torrential rain at Fuji.
That form was enough for McLaren to sign him up to partner Hamilton for 2008, but while he would claim his maiden victory in fortuitous circumstances in Hungary later that year, he would make the podium on just two other occasions despite driving the same car that would win the World title in his team-mate's hands. A huge accident early in the season at the Spanish GP didn't help his cause and his confidence appeared to take a nose dive as the year progressed.
Things got worse in 2009 amid a general struggle for competitiveness at McLaren and it was no surprise to anyone when he was dropped in favour of Jenson Button at season's end.
The Finn, though, didn't have to wait too long to sort out his F1 future and a few weeks later his move to newcomers Lotus Racing was confirmed. As expected, the rookie team were well off the pace of the more established outfits during the early stages of 2010, yet the Finn put in some respectable drives and quickly showed himself to be more than a match for the highly regarded Jarno Trulli. Indeed his 12th place finish in Japan helped secure Lotus the lucrative 10th spot in the Constructors' Championship.
The rebranded Team Lotus set their sights on the midfield in 2011, and although they ultimately fell short of that ambition, Kovalainen was again the man to lead the squad's challenge. All in all, Kovalainen managed to outqualify his team-mates Trulli and Karun Chandhok - who made a one-off appearance at the Nurburgring - in 17 out of the 19 races.
Although his performances have led to speculation bigger teams may again come calling, he's remained steadfastly loyal to Caterham as they continue to search for their first points in F1 in 2012.
- DOB: 19/10/1981
- Nationality: Finland
- Debut: 2007 (Australia)
- Car Number: 20
- Races: 112
- Wins: 1
- Podiums: 4
- Career Points: 105
- Pole Positions: 1
Pos Driver Nationality Team Pts 1 Rosberg Mercedes 238.0 2 Hamilton Mercedes 216.0 3 Ricciardo Red Bull 166.0 4 Bottas Williams 122.0 5 Alonso Ferrari 121.0 6 Vettel Red Bull 106.0 7 Button McLaren 72.0 8 Hulkenberg Force India 70.0 9 Massa Williams 55.0 10 Raikkonen Ferrari 41.0 11 Perez Force India 39.0 12 Magnussen McLaren 38.0 13 Vergne Toro Rosso 11.0 14 Grosjean Lotus 8.0 15 Kvyat Toro Rosso 8.0 16 Bianchi Marussia 2.0 17 Sutil Sauber 0.0 18 Ericsson Caterham 0.0 19 Maldonado Lotus 0.0 20 Gutierrez Sauber 0.0 21 Chilton Marussia 0.0 22 Kobayashi Caterham 0.0 23 Lotterer Caterham 0.0