McLaren say Kovalainen could have won

McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh believes Heikki Kovalainen could have scored his maiden grand prix victory at today's Turkish Grand Prix

Kovalainen, returning to action this weekend following his heavy crash at the Spanish Grand Prix, had qualified on the front row for the first time, outpacing teammate Lewis Hamilton despite carrying a heavier fuel load.

The Finn's race, however, was spoiled right at the start when he made contact with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen at the first corner.

The contact punctured one of Kovalainen's tyres. The McLaren driver pitted and dropped down to the bottom of the field before a strong charge to 12th place.

Without the first corner crash, Whitmarsh reckons Kovalainen could have beaten Felipe Massa for victory.

"If Heikki had not made that stop, he would have run longer than Felipe at the first stop and if he could have been close to Massa, which I think he could have been, he would have been able to take him at the first stop," Whitmarsh told reporters after the race.

"And thereafter, the race would have played out differently.

"It's easy to say that in hindsight, but I think Heikki did a fantastic job in qualifying with a reasonable fuel load onboard and had he been able to deploy and exploit that in the race, I've never known him as disappointed as this.

"He really felt he could win this race and as the race panned out, I think he knows he could have won it - and it eluded him. And that's disappointing.

"And I said to Heikki, he's absolutely right to be disappointed but on the other hand he wouldn't be so disappointed if he hadn't done such a great job to put himself in that position.

"He put himself in a position to win a race and he will win races this year and in the future and he really deserves to. He's an extraordinary chap."

Whitmarsh also praised teammate Lewis Hamilton's drive to second place, saying today's was the Briton's best drive of the year.

"It was the finest this year," he said. "My memory's so short that I don't want to draw comparisons.

"It was his finest race this year and with the odds against him he was just flat out and his in- and out-laps were great and the team did a superb job in the pitstops. And he took the race to Ferrari throughout."

Hamilton finished less than four seconds behind Massa after having to run a three-stop strategy for safety reasons following concerns about his tyres.

Previous article Turkey Sunday quotes: Ferrari
Next article Hamilton hails 'best race' to date