November 23, 2012 / 1:26 PM / 5 years ago

Motor racing-Kovalainen rules out becoming a 'pay driver'

SAO PAULO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen, who faces an uncertain future at Caterham, has ruled out seeking sponsorship cash to keep him in Formula One.

“If it is the last race it’s a shame but the situation is quite tricky for me,” the former McLaren driver told reporters at the Brazilian Grand Prix before his team announced on Friday that Frenchman Charles Pic would be racing for them next season on a multi-year deal.

There was no mention in that statement of Kovalainen or his current Russian team mate Vitaly Petrov but at least one of the two will now have to leave with no other places available for anyone without substantial backing.

Petrov has brought some sponsors with him and, with Russia due to host the country’s first grand prix in 2014, may be in the stronger position although he could also end up on the sidelines.

Force India and Marussia, who each have a seat to fill, have made clear that they expect whoever gets the nod to bring sponsorship with him as what is known in the sport as a ‘pay driver’.

There are several potential candidates out there who might fit the bill, such as Germany’s Adrian Sutil, Britain’s Max Chilton and Indian Narain Karthikeyan.

Brazilian Bruno Senna, whose place at Williams looks uncertain, could also be in the mix.

“We are looking at other options...but even the other options require some money, teams asking for money, and I don’t want to go that route,” said Kovalainen.

”I told my management not to actively find money. I don’t think it leads to anything. If you had a big backer like Santander, and they went with you to a team then that’s a different thing.

“But to collect the money in a pot for one season, to me it doesn’t really do anything,” added the 31-year-old Finn.

Kovalainen, who is managed by IMG Worldwide, has spent three seasons at Caterham after two years with McLaren and one at Renault. He won the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix for McLaren.

The Finn said there had to be a clear plan to go forwards and paying for a seat at a mid-table team, at best, did not appeal to him.

“The situation, how it is now in Formula One, might not fit for me,” he said. “Might not have room for me. There’s nothing really I can do about it.”

Caterham have yet to score a point in their three seasons and while Kovalainen has been a solid point of reference for them, his results are unlikely to attract much interest elsewhere.

Despite that, he was mentioned in some media speculation earlier in the year as a possible replacement for Brazilian Felipe Massa at Ferrari - mainly for his past at Renault alongside Fernando Alonso.

“I still have a good relationship with (owner) Tony (Fernandes) and everyone at the team so it could well be that I stay here,” said Kovalainen.

“But just from my experience, I know how things are in Formula One and when things get late it’s never a good sign. That’s why I don’t really push it too much at the moment.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John Mehaffey

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