Caterham boss says Kovalainen grew tired of their failure to deliver on promises
"This sort of thing damages relationships," Abiteboul admits
By Mike Wise. Last Updated: 11/02/13 12:29pm
Heikki Kovalainen: Damaged relationship with Caterham
Caterham's Cyril Abiteboul has admitted that their relationship with Heikki Kovalainen became damaged as a result of their failure to deliver on promises made to the Finn.
Kovalainen was seemingly left out in the F1 wilderness last week when Caterham confirmed that Giedo van der Garde would partner Charles Pic this coming season.
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Speaking recently, Lewis Hamilton described his former team-mate's absence from F1 as "crazy" but, according to Abiteboul, the former Renault and McLaren driver was quite content with the parting of ways.
"Heikki had a particular career but I think it was interesting for us to think about the future, about people with lots of energy and appetite for something new. Sometimes you also have to see the reality, when you are at the end or reaching the end," Abiteboul told Sky Sports Online.
Kovalainen, winner of the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix, joined the then start-up Lotus Racing team ahead of the 2010 season.
Team bosses, including owner Tony Fernandes, promised that they would be able to score points but, embarking upon their fourth season, that has yet to happen.
Abiteboul said that strains in the relationship became apparent last season, which saw Caterham struggle to finish tenth in the Constructors' Championship.
"I think it was on both sides to be honest," he said of the decision to divorce. "You made reference to one comment that someone else made of an expectation at Caterham to be able to score points and to deliver a good car. Let's be honest: I think we disappointed our drivers. We almost let them down, in the sense that we under-delivered in comparison to the promise we made to them.
"And you can do that once, twice...with Heikki, I'm not saying we did that for three years but this relationship has been going on for three years and this sort of thing damages relationships.
"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, to be honest - that you should be counting on for the continued development of both the team and the driver.
He added: "Of course (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."
Abiteboul was brought in as team boss late last year, with Caterham now taking a more realistic long-term view of their progress.
Having moved to a new factory in Leafield, Oxfordshire, the 35-year-old former Renault employee is focusing on building up Caterham's infrastructure and attracting sponsors.
Abiteboul also admitted that money was a consideration in the decision to hire Charles Pic and Giedo ven der Garde but insisted it was not the only factor.
"I don't see that as a negative. I think there is a good balance between their sporting and commercial value," he said. "Those things matter because when you are a young team, it's not easy to attract sponsors."
Click here to read the full interview.