Caterham has announced that triple Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer will replace Kamui Kobayashi for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, although the Japanese driver will “remain part of the team”.
The unexpected call up has been explained by Caterham, declaring that: “The weather plays a big role at Spa-Francorchamps and Lotterer is one of the most experienced drivers racing under mixed conditions.”
There are no doubts that Lotterer is experienced having competed for 17 years, 12 of which has been single seater racing. This has included a venture into Japan on his way to winning the 2011 Formula Nippon title.
Now known as Super Formula, the German currently sits second in the Drivers’ Championship, just 3.5 points behind former Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima.
Lotterer was a race winner in British F3, before victories at the prestigious 24 hour race in 2011, 2012 and 2014 with Audi, as well as claiming the World Endurance Championship in 2012.
Upon his arrival, Lotterer said: “I am delighted to be given the opportunity to take part in a Formula One race weekend – I want to thank Caterham F1 Team for this chance.”
“I’m ready for this challenge and I cannot wait to jump in the car and make the most out of the weekend ahead. I will need to get settled and used to the car quickly, as the team has worked on a number of updates and we will need to have as much time as possible out on track to optimise the car’s performance.
“I really enjoy racing at the legendary circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, it’s one of my favourite tracks and it’s very close to where I grew up, so this makes the weekend even more special and one to remember.”
More than a decade after his last F1 experience as a test driver at Jaguar during the 2002 season, Lotterer will finally get the chance to make his F1 debut as he partners Marcus Ericsson.
The decision may have come as a surprise to Kobayashi who recently tweeted: “Absolutely ready for Belgium GP this weekend”.
The Japanese driver returned to F1 this season following a short GT career with Ferrari and has outperformed his team-mate in the opening 11 races, leading the qualifying head-to-head 9-2 and the race head-to-head 8-3.
However it was an 11th place finish for Ericsson at the Monaco Grand Prix which has left the Swedish driver ahead in the standings, who also provides a healthier financial contribution to the team.
It remains to be seen whether the Belgian GP is a one off event for Lotterer, or whether Kobayashi will race again.