Q & A with Heikki Kovalainen

The new Lotus T127 got off to an encouraging start when it completed 76 laps in test driver's Fairuz Fauzy's hands on Wednesday, but Heikki Kovalainen's first run in the car today was affected by rain, a hydraulic glitch, and eventually a session-ending crash

Q & A with Heikki Kovalainen

Despite this, the Finn said he learned enough to feel quietly confident about Lotus's long-term prospects. AUTOSPORT was there to hear his analysis.

Q. What went wrong today?

Heikki Kovalainen: It was just my mistake. Coming out of Turn 2, into 3, went on the power a little bit too aggressively. I lost the rear, corrected, went into the gravel, and then head-on into the wall. That damaged the nose. My mistake.

Q. Was the car behaving okay? It looked like you had a spin on a previous lap as well...

HK: Yeah, it was all fine. Just my mistake. Too aggressive on the power.

Q. Were your intermediate tyres worn?

HK: Yeah, they were a bit worn, but the track was drying and they were starting to get better. I was pushing a little bit more and more. There was no problem.

Q. What do you think about the car's potential?

HK: I think the potential is there. My initial feeling from this morning was good. The feeling is that in the low-speed corners the car is behaving quite well. It's lacking grip, it hasn't got enough grip. And in the high-speed I think we lose quite a lot of time, partly because of the set-up problems as well. The car is a little bit heavy still and we need to make it lighter, then we can move the balance around and all these things.

But I think otherwise, fundamentally it feels quite okay. I actually enjoyed driving it from the beginning. Apart from the hydraulic problem that we had this morning, once we got going it was all okay.

Q. Your previous two teams were very well established, what is your impression of working with a new team?

HK: The only difference is the size of the team and the amount of people. In fact the operation feels very much the same as any other team. The mechanics and the engineers work in a very similar way. We've just not had enough time to prepare properly. We haven't got enough spare parts to prepare for this kind of accident. But it's really not very different at all, apart from the size of the team because we are a small team. But I feel we can do all the things that are necessary. In a little bit of time I think we will be able to improve the car and get quicker as a result.

Q. Can you have a bigger influence because the team is smaller?

HK: No, I think it's the same. The bigger teams can probably react quicker and do things in a shorter time than us. But at the previous teams I've had good communication and I have good communication with people here, so it's not too different.

Q. Who is your race engineer?

HK: Juan Pablo Ramirez - Timo [Glock]'s race engineer from last year. I get on very well with him, I think he's a really good guy. In fact I think the whole engineering team is good. The design team is good. We have all the people that we need. It will just take a bit of time to get everybody working together, to get the design team building. But then we'll start seeing improvements. But so far I'm quite pleased.

Q. What's your programme for tomorrow?

HK: 200 laps! I was trying to do 100 today and did 30, so 170 laps tomorrow minimum...

Q. Were you surprised by how reliably the car ran yesterday?

HK: Yeah. I think yesterday was much better than we were anticipating. To be honest, Mike [Gascoyne] has always said that the car should be reasonably solid, should be quite strong, maybe not the quickest initially but it should be fine. You always have some doubts. We went to do a shakedown in the UK and we had some small problems there, so you never know how it's going to be. But yesterday was actually very good. We didn't have any big problems. Even the problem that we had today was not actually a physical problem, it was just the installation of the hydraulic system was not correct, so once we got that running it was in fact running as it should do.

Q. Was your problem this morning related to the power steering?

HK: It was related to the power steering - we added the power steering today and it was related to that. Basically the system had air inside it, that was the problem, so we were bleeding and bleeding the system, and there was some air trapped in the power steering. Once we got that air out, we got it working in the garage, went and did a couple more laps and more air started to go towards the back of the car, we had to stop, do a couple of shorter runs and then eventually it was all solid. So that was just the installation problem.

Q. Are you doing any meaningful work yet or just getting miles on the car?

HK: Of course the mileage is the important thing, but I think we've already got some stuff done regarding engine mapping, throttle mappings, the diffs, really all the electronics of it. They were not like I think they should be, and I think we've already improved them today. So I think we got something out of today and hopefully tomorrow we can just get on with that. The most important thing is to do miles because that's how we can pick up problems that otherwise we will get in Bahrain. That's our main objective, regardless of the weather.

Q. You had the best engine in the field with McLaren-Mercedes last year, what's your impression of the Cosworth?

HK: It's quite positive. In fact I think in terms of pure power I think it's not far off. It's probably not quite as good, but for an early days feeling it's quite positive. And in fact the driveability felt very positive as well compared to the Mercedes. Power is in slightly different areas, but I think it's one of the stronger parts of the car at the moment and I think they've done a good job. We'll see with degradation and how it will be. The Mercedes was obviously very good across two race weekends and it felt very solid, so we'll see how that will work out. But I only did 30 laps so it's hard to say.

Q. How do you feel about being the only Finn in Formula 1 this year?

HK: It's no different for me. Hopefully we can get some more people here soon, but I don't feel anything strange. I just try to do my job to the maximum and get everything out of the team.

Q. Are you disappointed not to have done the Arctic Rally?

HK: Yeah, I could've done it. I had a few offers, a few cars that I could've run there. Some really competitive cars. But it would've taken a long time. Just to go there and do the recce and then the rally, I felt I would not have been good enough. I needed a week, I wanted to do good testing. Two weeks at this stage with a new team would've been wrong. Everybody working in the UK and me doing two weeks of rallying at home, it wouldn't have been right. So I decided not to do it. Maybe in the future - let's see in the summer or next winter what the possibilities are. But if and when I do it, I want to do it properly and see what I can get out of it.

Q. Are you watching Kimi Raikkonen in the World Rally Championship?

HK: Absolutely. I watch every stage.

Q. Do you keep in touch?

HK: Not recently, but I try to follow what he's doing. I think he will be good there. I think the rallies that he's done so far have been really difficult rallies against really good drivers on both surfaces, and I think given a little bit of time, already this season he could be quite competitive and get some good results. He's got a good team, a good car and a good co-driver, so once it all starts working, I think it will be good.

Q. You were a Renault young driver when Jarno Trulli was racing there. What is your relationship like?

HK: I think we've worked fine so far. The experience that I've had is very good. I feel comfortable with him, we talk on the same level, we know what we're talking about and I think we can push the team forward. Also, he's quick, he's very competitive, I'm sure we can race and push each other, and that's good as well - someone always there to keep you awake so you can't relax at any point. I think it's a strong line-up, and potentially a very good team. I'm sure we can do a good job.

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