Q & A with Heikki Kovalainen

Q. How was the test?

Heikki Kovalainen: It is good, it is looking strong. We had some engine problems. There was some electronic problem which we could not identify so we changed it. Apart from that it is all okay. A big learning experience for everybody. It is better than expected. We expected to have more problems with the new software. Nelson (Piquet) had done a couple of shakedowns and I think there were some problems then.

Q. What was your first impression of running without traction control then?

HK: Not as bad as some people said it would be... I have heard some horror stories. I have driven a car without TC before, but with this level of power you really don't know what is going to be like, but it has not been too difficult.

Obviously you have to adjust your driving style and care for the tyres, but in high speed corners it does not affect so much. You can still nail the throttle there, but in the lower speed corners you have to be a bit more careful now. Not too bad at all.

Q. Will you get a better impression when we go to somewhere like Jerez?

HK: Maybe. It will be more important there, more interesting to see. My plan is not to go there, and let Nelson do the work.

Q. So what is the driving like? Is it easy to find the balance?

HK: You cannot be too aggressive but if you are patient enough initially. as soon as you open throttle and you wait a bit, you can feed it in as soon as the car is straight. You can nail it as you did before, you still have to feed it in reasonably sharp and if you get it right you win, and if you slip too much you will lose straight away.

We have done loads of starts, which is more difficult... Now you just have to feel the wheels and you control the throttle. So far the performance has not been great, it is tricky to do starts now , it is all manual, all under your foot. You make your rear wheel spin a bit, then you try to back off, take the control to get the grip then...

Q. Is it good F1 does not have traction control?

HK: I think so, it will be more interesting. For sure I think it makes things more complicated and I think in qualifying it will make a big difference. People will go quicker when the balance is good and when you find grip you go fast, but in the race if you try to overtake someone at the exit of the corner you now feel the wheels... I think it is a good thing.

Q. Are you fixed at Renault or can you go somewhere else?

HK: I am not confirmed. I do not have contracts with anyone, and I have different options (from Renault). I think Renault potentially is a strong team. I hope I can stay but we will see as there are other options which are interesting. You just don't know who is going to be strong next year. It could be anyone, that is why it takes a bit of time.

Q. What do you expect in 2008?

HK: Depends on many things. The most important thing for me is to do a better start than this year, wherever I am, prepare better physically and mentally to get stronger at the beginning of the year. Then the target is to be strong enough. If the car is strong enough I want to win races and to be champion as well, but it is better not to talk about that too much. I want to be able to fight for the championship and I would like to be ready this winter.

Q. With Renault?

HK: Any car. I did not say Renault. If I was a Ferrari driver or McLaren driver, then I would expect to fight for the championship but at the moment I am not with anyone, and it is not realistic to talk about winning the championship now. I need to see first where we are as we cannot see the championship situation. It is important for me to start better.

Q. Do you think Renault will have the same line-up or that there will be a total overhaul?

HK: That is the question you need to ask Flavio. I think I am in a very good position with the team. They know me and they know the potential from this season. I can do a good job for the team but obviously Fernando is still a free agent, I believe.

I think any team would love to have Fernando in the team. I believe Renault is trying to get him back to the team , and we need to see whether I drive the other car or it's someone else. You know we have not decided yet, so we really don't know.

Q. What would you like to do? What is on your wish list?

HK: I want to be in a competitive car to be able to fight for victories and the championship, wherever that is. It does not matter as long as it is competitive, and I have equal status with my teammate. I am not willing to support anyone from the beginning of the season, everyone know this.

I made it very clear to Renault. The thing is when I go to Melbourne I want to know I can fight for the championship. It is okay if the other driver is stronger at the end of the season and if I need to help, then it is fine. But I need to be able to start the season fair and square and with equal treatment, and that is very important for me.

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