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Q & A with Heikki Kovalainen

Q. What did it mean to you to win that first race in Budapest?

Heikki KovalainenHeikki Kovalainen: Of course it was something that I've targeted realistically for a little while. Finally to happen of course it was a very positive thing. Apart from that I don't think it has changed much about how I approach the Grands Prix and the routine is the same as before. It was just good to get it out of the way and now it's important to repeat it a few more times!

Q. Was it a bit of a relief that you finally did it and you didn't have to think about the first win anymore?

HK: I didn't feel relief. It's a positive thing and it's good that it happened but I didn't feel any stress about it. I didn't feel frustrated that it hadn't happened because it could have happened a lot earlier many times. But realistically I only thought about winning a race a couple of months ago. I didn't really take any extra stress about it or think that I had to get it. I thought it was just a matter of time.

Q. You were the 100th driver to win a world championship race - does that mean anything to you?

HK: Yes, it's a nice number of course! But for me it doesn't change anything.

Q. Many drivers have said that something changed in them after the first win. Have you felt this or is it business as usual?

HK: Nothing has dramatically changed, no. I work in the same way with the team and approach the Grand Prix in the same way as before. Perhaps more people talk about me now after the first win - many people asked me the same question! I don't think anything has changed. I'll see maybe later on if it makes any difference but so far I haven't noticed anything.

Q. Has your profile in Finland gone up?

HK: Maybe a little bit. Of course it was a popular headline on the Monday after I won the Grand Prix! But Kimi is still easily the most popular at the moment. He's done better results and he deserves that. If it stays this way it's fantastic - I'd much rather be quiet and in the background but I'd still like to do the same results as Kimi!

Q. You say be quiet, but you've said more today than Kimi says in a whole year. Your profile must be higher because of that?

HK: Kimi still has a higher profile, it's just that we are different characters. It's just the way we are and that's all I can say.

Q. You went home after the win - did you get a good reception?

HK: It was a very good reception. The last five or six years we've had a traditional weekend with the village I was born in. We've had a karting race for the past few years and obviously this year it was the week after the Hungary victory so it was good timing! A lot of people came to see me and talk to me and it's always good for the area. Of course, it was a nice day but we didn't have any major parties, just a bit of fun and a bit of holiday.

Q. It's interesting if you look at the top three teams - in every one there is one who is struggling with the tyres. At McLaren it is you. The difference is you have the problems in the races. Is this a coincidence or does it have something to do with this year's tyres?

HK: I don't think it's a coincidence. There are some differences in driving style, in the way that different drivers get them up to temperature and get them working. It's quite tricky for myself this year. I've found a few times that they are very good and the stints are very strong, but then if I don't get the tyres exactly like I want it can ruin the whole stint and I lose a lot of time. Generally I haven't had a problem in qualifying but that's probably more characteristic of our car. But we are working at it. I can't talk for the other teams and drivers but certainly for myself we are getting on top of the reasons why I am harder on the tyres and we're working on it. Eventually we will get there.

Q. You are too hard on the tyres?

HK: Yes. It think it's the small detail of the driving and how you enter the corners and how you hit the brakes and how you go on the power. I'm sometimes cornering longer than Lewis - he turns the car in a shorter time whereas I'm trying to make the corners more round. It's harder on the tyres - it's a fact I need to work on.

Q. Is that something you can work on during the season or do you have to wait for the winter tests?

HK: No. We worked over the last few months with it and we've changed the car as well - it's very difficult to change the driving style and there's no need to change driving style radically. It's just adapting the car, finding the sweet spot and adapting the car as well. We are getting closer to it and on some occasions we have been very happy with it. We need to keep working on it and that's the only way to improve it.

Q. The out lap is very important - how do you balance attacking with bringing the tyres up to the right temperature?

HK: It's very tricky. It's not always the same from race to race. Some races you can go harder, others you have to be more cautious and it's all very small details. you're not talking about many seconds or many metres in braking zones. It's about how you get the tyre going early on - it's quite critical. There's no need to change anything completely, that would be a wrong direction. Perhaps Lewis naturally finds the way with his tyres. I've been running Michelins for a long time in my career and with them you could attack the corner really well, so it's something I've been used to for a long time.

Q. To do that do you have enough running in the tests or can a simulator help?

HK: The simulator doesn't help this problem because it has nothing to do with tyre degradation. It's more from one race weekend and test to another. I'm confident we will get there. There have been some good stints and some less good stints - the important thing is we are heading in the right direction.

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