HEIKKI KOVALAINEN MP4-24-03 Started: 15th Finished: 6th Fastest lap: 1m25.109s (6th) Pitstops: one (Pr-Op) 2009 points: 20 (10th) From fourth on the grid, Heikki started on heavy tanks and dropped...
HEIKKI KOVALAINEN MP4-24-03
Fastest lap: 1m25.109s (6th)
Pitstops: one (Pr-Op)
2009 points: 20 (10th)
From fourth on the grid, Heikki started on heavy tanks and dropped two places to the Brawns, before losing a further position to Vitantonio Liuzzi. On lap four he began to notice a lack of grip from his Prime tyres -- particularly on the exit of the slower corners -- and was consequently passed for seventh by Fernando Alonso.
Pitting on lap 28 and switching to Options, he pushed to the finish, running seventh until Lewis's accident on the final lap promoted him to sixth.
Heikki said afterwards: "I'm rather disappointed with today. My race began with a difficult start and that cost me several places on the first lap. Then I couldn't really push hard in the first stint because my Prime tyres didn't have the grip to allow me to attack. Things were better in the second stint on the Options, but, by then, it was too late to regain the time I'd lost in the first stint."
Finished: 12th (DNF, 52 laps, accident)
Fastest lap: 1m24.802s (3rd)
Pitstops: two (Op-Pr-Pr)
2009 points: 27 (7th)
With a two-stop strategy, it was always going to be difficult for Lewis to build enough of a gap to keep the single-stopping cars behind him. Despite "pushing on every lap, like a qualifying lap", and despite leading for much of the race, Lewis was unable to build a sufficient lead and dropped to third behind Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button as all three drivers made their final stops and raced to the flag.
Chasing down his countryman, Lewis cut the gap to Jenson to just over one second but, on the final lap and pushing harder than ever (he had just set his fastest time of the race in the first sector), he lost the back of the car at the exit of the first Lesmo and slid into the barriers.
"I wasn't on the optimal strategy so I really had to push to make my two-stopper work," said Lewis. "I got every tenth out of the car that I could possibly get and I didn't make any mistakes -- until the last lap. It's unfortunate -- but these things happen, it's a racing incident. I was pushing incredibly hard on that lap to try to get close to Jenson and use KERS to pass him, then I exited the first Lesmo and the back-end got away from me and I went backwards into the wall.
"I can only say 'sorry' to the team -- they did a great job and, although we weren't quite as quick as the Brawns today, I pushed harder than ever, so I can feel happy about that."
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"A disappointing result -- there's no point my denying that we'd expected to achieve a lot more here at Monza than a sixth place and a DNF.
"Looking at the positives, though, thankfully, Lewis walked away unharmed from what was a pretty big shunt -- simply the result of his never-give-up attitude, his unquenchable desire to fight until the very last metre of the very last lap. Throughout the final stint he'd been pushing as hard as he possibly could, driving beautifully, right on the limit, in an effort to catch Jenson [Button] for second place, and he pushed just a fraction too hard -- and the result was that he lost it on the exit of the first Lesmo on that final lap. He'd just gone 'purple' in the first sector of that final lap, in fact.
"But that's the nature of a driver like Lewis, and there aren't many like him: if you give it 100 per cent on every single lap, every so often you'll give it 101 per cent -- and then the result will be an 'off'. But that's racing, and Lewis is very definitely a racer, and we wouldn't want him any other way.
"So, yes, we're disappointed with our points haul today, of course we are, but we're also pleased that our race pace was almost on a par with that of the Brawns and as quick or quicker than that of anyone else.
"Now, though, we're already focusing on Singapore, where we intend to be every bit as competitive as we've been here at Monza this weekend.
Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That's how it goes sometimes in motor racing. Lewis drove an excellent race and had the speed to finish on the podium. Lewis was in third place, five seconds behind the leader and catching up consistently when he crashed on the last lap -- about three kilometres from the finish line.
"Heikki, starting fourth, came home sixth but three points is obviously not the reward Vodafone McLaren Mercedes would have wished for today.
"The positive side: as in Hungary and Valencia, during two of the last three races Lewis had the speed to fight for a victory and we'll build on this performance during the final four races of the season.
"Well done to Adrian Sutil for scoring his first points of the season with a strong drive to fourth position -- both he and his Force India team did an excellent job."