Q & A with Heikki Kovalainen
|Tuesday, December 19th 2006, 11:12 GMT|
Conducted and provided by the Renault F1 Team press office
Q: Heikki, you have been a key member of the world championship winning team - and still to make your Grand Prix debut. How does it feel?
Heikki Kovalainen: "I am really happy for the team and for Fernando, they have done a fantastic job. But personally, I don't want to take too much credit for the achievement. For me, the target was to do the laps, to prepare the cars well for the race, to select good tyres - and I think we managed to do that.
On a personal level, I am happy with the job I did, and I improved my driving through the year. In terms of the championship, though, I am pleased for my teammates and to see their hard work rewarded, more than for myself."
Q: You had the unique opportunity to watch the championship campaign unfolding from the inside. What did it teach you?
Kovalainen: "I learned a lot, and especially in the final three Grands Prix when I stayed for the race. I was able to listen to the radio, to be in all the debriefs, and see how the team and the drivers managed the situation. That was a really good experience, and it was impressive to see how the team reacted to the circumstances and how they bounced back in between China and Japan.
It has been important to be with the team in those times, because I hope to be in a similar situation fighting for the title in the near future. And I now have some reference points about how to handle all the different pressures."
Q: Your real job happened away from the cameras, on the test track, developing the R26. What were the strengths of the car?
Kovalainen: "From the start, the R26 was easy to drive and set-up - you could see that at the race weekends. Sometimes, if the drivers were not happy on Friday, the engineers would make a lot of overnight changes - and get back on track very quickly.
In terms of the development, we improved every area - the aero was very strong and the grip too. The engine improved all year with big steps, and they had good pace without compromising the reliability.
And last but not least, Michelin did a great job. They fought back in the middle of the year when they seemed to have lost the advantage, and regained their competitiveness, especially in the race. That hard work and effort was a big strength for us towards the end of the year."
Q: You mentioned that the R26 underwent extensive development. What about Heikki Kovalainen?
Kovalainen: "I am very happy with what I have done, what I learned and how I improved. This was an important year for me that was full of opportunities to be prepared for the future.
I did a lot of miles, faced a lot of different situations - and had a lot of different jobs to do. So it was a very good learning year, and I approached it knowing that the next step for me was to go racing. I have achieved it, so now I need to make the best possible preparations for Melbourne, to be immediately competitive when we arrive."
Q: The outside world will see you stepping into the shoes of the sport's youngest ever double world champion. That must be extra pressure for you...?
Kovalainen: "For me, it is not extra pressure - it is a great opportunity to be competitive in my first year, which very few drivers ever get. The team will be strong, and the car will be quick. I need to stay calm and have a cool head.
The first races will not be easy and my philosophy will be to prepare for the worst. Maybe there will be some bad races, but I will focus on things one step at a time, finishing the first race, then the second and so on. There is always pressure, wherever you race. But I have never felt it has affected my driving, and I don't think it will next year either."
Q: Finally, are you already excited by the thought of Melbourne?
Kovalainen: "I have just seen the 2007 car in the wind tunnel, and it looks fantastic - very aggressive. I am really looking forward to driving it."