Heikki Kovalainen feels his underdog heroics with Caterham were overlooked by Formula 1's top teams, and is surprised to be facing 2013 on the sidelines.
The Finn is unlikely to find a drive for the coming season, with his 2010-12 employer Caterham set to give its remaining seat to either Vitaly Petrov or Giedo van der Garde. In an exclusive interview with AUTOSPORT about his current plight, Kovalainen said that while a lack of finance was his biggest stumbling block, he also believes his recent driving has gone unnoticed.
"Of course we're working flat-out to see if we can do something about it, but the problem is the results that I've had over these last two or three years have not been enough to get in a top car, and then the average teams are in a situation now where they have to take pay drivers, and that rules out the second half of the grid," Kovalainen said.
"It's a tricky situation that I'm in now, although people say you've driven well, you've done a good job, the fact is that 15th or 16th or 17th on paper that is not as good as someone who's been sixth or seventh or eighth.
"It was slightly surprising, I thought after last season and the last couple of years I thought I'd be in a better position on the market."
Former Caterham design chief Mike Gascoyne, now technical director for the wider Caterham group, said at the AUTOSPORT International motorsports show that the team's priority in its 2013 driver choice had to be its long-term health.
"We are very much aiming to be a sustainable long-term team," he said. "That may mean we have to take pay drivers or whatever, that's the nature of the game. But the one thing we want to make sure is that Caterham is on the grid in 20 years' time."