Kovalainen: I can match Hamilton in 2009

Heikki Kovalainen says he is ready to step up his game and become a much stronger challenger to Lewis Hamilton next season, after admitting he was not happy with how his first year with McLaren went

Kovalainen: I can match Hamilton in 2009

The Finn started off the 2008 campaign with some impressive performances - especially in qualifying - but his form slipped away in the second half of the year as McLaren's own challenge became stronger.

And despite taking his maiden victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, he confesses that things were far from ideal. However, he thinks he knows what he has to do to up his pace next season.

"I'm clearly not happy, certainly not with the results," Kovalainen said at the Mercedes-Benz Stars & Cars event in Stuttgart on Saturday. "I think the fact is I didn't make any big mistakes this year, but the season was quite difficult.

"We didn't finish all the races, there were also some things happening with me, and with my car technical issues that prevented us from a few results. But I think I'm much better prepared now for next year, and I'm looking forward to starting work for next year.

"Hopefully we can finish more races, without any problems, and get some better results."

It is understood that Kovalainen will have to improve his performances in 2009 if he to retain his seat beyond the end of the season - with McLaren and Mercedes already believed to be weighing up other options including Robert Kubica.

However, Kovalainen sees no reason why he cannot improve enough to become a thorn in the side of Hamilton.

When asked if this year had prepared him enough to be able to compete with his world championship teammate, Kovalainen said: "Yes, I think so.

"Even this year, the potential was there to get much better results. In terms of ultimate pace, there's never been a problem.

"If you look at some of the qualifying sessions this year, if you really measure the speed, it's quite positive. So I think we just need to keep working on the details. So to answer your question, yeah, I think I can do a much better season next year.

"We don't know at the moment how it is going to go, and what kind of package we are going to have. But, thinking ahead, and suspecting that we're going to have a good car, then I will do the maximum to be in a position to have a better season."

And he insisted there was no issue of Hamilton being granted automatic number one status at the team because of his title success.

"I think it is quite clear that we have the same chances," explained Kovalainen.

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