Grand Prix winner Heikki Kovalainen will race for Jenson Button’s JBXE team in Extreme E this year alongside the returning Hedda Hosas.
Kovalainen, winner of the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix and a veteran of 112 GPs joins Formula 1 contemporaries Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, and Button in associating with the all-electric off-road series, but is the first since Button – who contested the opening round of the 2021 season – to drive in the championship.
“I’m really excited to join the JBXE in the Extreme E series in Saudi,” said former Renault, McLaren, Caterham, and Lotus driver Kovalainen. “It’s a great championship with great teams and drivers so I’m looking forward to competing with them.
“It’ll be something new again in my career, after my F1 stint I’ve done GTs as well as some rallying and I’m always looking for new challenges and looking forward to giving this a try. It’ll be a steep learning curve no doubt but I’m up for it and hopefully we’ll get up to speed quickly.”
After departing F1 at the end of 2013, Kovalainen raced in Japan’s SuperGT between 2015-21, winning the title in 2016. He’s also ventured into the world of rallying, debuting at the 2015 Arctic Rally, and then regularly competing in the Japanese rally championship.
He won the 2021 title, claiming victories in every round, and backed that up with another dominant display last year, a mechanical retirement on the Kumakogen Rally and a ninth place on Rally Hokkaido preventing another clean sweep.
Button, who coincidentally replaced Kovalainen at McLaren in 2010, said that the Finn’s combined F1 and rallying experience made it a “no brainer” to sign him for the upcoming season.
“I’m delighted to be announcing Heikki as our new male driver and also to have Hedda continue with the team,” said Button. “To bring such an established name from the world of motorsport and someone I had the pleasure of racing against in F1, is brilliant for the team and the series.
“Following his move into the world of rally, it was a no brainer for the team to approach him and I’m over the moon he’s agreed to join the team and equally delighted to be keeping Hedda after she has continued to make great progress in the car, she fully deserves her place.”
Meanwhile Veloce development driver Hosas will return to JBXE for a full campaign after contesting four of last year’s five rounds for the team.
“I am delighted to be returning with JBXE for my second season in Extreme E,” she said. “The team has a lot of potential and although we scored a podium last season I know there is a lot more to come from us.
“It is going to be a great experience working with Heikki, too, and it is something I am really excited by. He is an F1 winner and has driven in so many categories so there is so much to learn from, and together I hope we make a really good partnership starting with the first race in NEOM.”