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F1 NEWS 

US GP: Kovalainen downplays rapid pace in F1 practice

Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen has downplayed his impressive pace on his first day driving the Lotus E21 after ending United States Grand Prix Friday practice fifth fastest.

The Finn has taken up the seat vacated by Kimi Raikkonen, who had back surgery on Thursday, and ended up 0.768 seconds off pacesetter Sebastian Vettel in practice.

While surprised by how quickly he got up to speed, Kovalainen still believes there is room for improvement before Saturday afternoon's qualifying session.

When asked by AUTOSPORT about his lofty position on the timesheets, Kovalainen replied: "It doesn't matter too much to me.

"I didn't know what to expect but I thought that I could do the job, it was just a matter of how quickly you get up to speed.

"I didn't know if it was going to take a day, half-a-year, two races or however long, so this was the only question mark.

"It was good to see that things worked out slightly better than I was perhaps anticipating but the times don't really mean much on Friday and we still need to improve for tomorrow."

The Finn is already feeling comfortable in the car and was satisfied with the progress made on Friday.

This is with regard not only to his speed, but also adapting to other factors such as starts and pitstops.

"I did not really have any other objectives but to try and lean on it as soon as possible, try to be on the edge as soon as I felt comfortable and I think we achieved that reasonably well today," he said.

"The car was well-balanced almost straight away so we didn't have to chase the set-up too much.

"The tyres are not going away straight away so it gives you a few more laps to try. So I was able to get a feel for it quite quickly."

NEW SEAT NEEDED

Kovalainen is also having to make modifications to his seat overnight after sliding around in the car too much on Friday.

The seat bucket is different to the one he did his original fitting in at the team's Enstone base, meaning changes have to be made.

"We have got to make a new seat, which is normal," said Kovalainen.

"I haven't hurt anything, but the bucket that we used was slightly different.

"I used Kimi's seat and it is slightly bigger than what I need everywhere so we just need to fill it up around the edges, around the shoulders.

"The one that we used at the factor was slightly different and I'm sliding out of the seat because of that, so we are using one of his race seats now as a shell and then modifying it around the shoulders."

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