SEPTEMBER 6, 2006
Stepping into Alonso's shoes
Heikki Kovalainen goes into the 2007 season as replacement for World Championship Fernando Alonso. These are big shoes to fill.
"I'm really happy with the decision, and it is a big boost for my motivation," says Kovalainen. "I am really looking forward to my first season in Formula 1, and to be starting it with a top team. But first things first, we still need to finish 2006 in the right way. I have a couple of important test sessions left, and we need to do a good job before thinking about next year. Next year is a new start for me. There will be high expectations straight away, but I will not look at it as extra pressure. I will be aiming to tick off my goals one by one: to finish my first race, hopefully to do it in the points and to improve all year. We should have a car capable of bringing good results, and I need to deliver them. But I will be starting the job in a calm, easy frame of mind."
Why does Kovalainen think Renault chose him?
"Hopefully my pace," he says. "That's always what the engineers are looking at - even when they say they are not! I have been consistent, always trying to push the car and give good feedback. The engineers have given me feedback on my job too and, whether it was positive or negative, I have tried to respond either way. I think I have succeeded in doing that, and I feel very confident with the car now."
Kovalainen has been testing with the team since 2004.
"The relationship has just got better and better since then," says the Finn. "I have improved my job, worked hard with the engineers, and this is the best possible conclusion - to make my Formula 1 debut with a team I know really well. I think Fisi (Giancarlo Fisichella) is the best possible team-mate I could have. He is experienced, he's very quick and we get on well on a personal level, with a similar sense of humour. We work well, and we have a laugh together as well."
Looking ahead six months, how do you think it will feel, lining up on the grid in Melbourne?
"I am sure I will have a few butterflies in my stomach," he says. "In reality, though, I will be going back to what I have done all my life, which is racing. This year has been the unusual one, not being out on the track competing. So on the grid, I'm going to be thinking about getting a good start, finding the braking point for turn 1, and going from there. It will just be one race in the calendar, and if I do my normal job then I should have a good result."
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