Renault interview with Kovalainen

RDD Driver Heikki Kovalainen drove an F1 car for the first time this week, with the Renault F1 Team in Barcelona. Q: So Heikki, your first time in an F1 car: tell us about it. Heikki Kovalainen. Photo by LAT Photographic. HK: It was...

RDD Driver Heikki Kovalainen drove an F1 car for the first time this week, with the Renault F1 Team in Barcelona.

Q: So Heikki, your first time in an F1 car: tell us about it.

Heikki Kovalainen.
Photo by LAT Photographic.
HK: It was quite good fun! To be honest, it wasn't as different from the other cars I have driven as I was expecting. There is more power and more downforce, but everything is in proportion and it feels very balanced. That gave me good confidence to push early on in my test. The most impressive thing is the grip with new tyres, over one lap: that drops off quickly but on that lap, it is incredible. Overall, it was a great experience, and I don't want to drive anything else now!

Q: Your first runs were actually on a wet circuit, on Wednesday afternoon. Was that an added pressure?

HK: No, I don't think so. I was just happy to get out on the circuit, because according to the forecast, it looked like it might stay wet for the next day as well. It was a bit damp when I first went out, but that was another challenge, and helped me learn. Even in the wet, on rain tyres, the grip was amazing, and I think I did quite a good job in those conditions.

Q: What were the biggest challenges during the test?

HK: Technically, it was more intense than what I am used to. I talked about the same things with the engineers when giving feedback, whether the car was understeering or oversteering, but what really surprised me were the big debriefs: you had to look at the engine, the chassis, the tyres in lots of detail. Otherwise, on the physical side, my neck felt sore after I had completed a number of runs. We sorted out the problems with some padding, and it wasn't actually slowing me down, but I need to improve my strength in that area.

Q: In terms of speed, were you happy with your performance, or could you have gone faster?

HK: In the context of the test itself, I think I could have gone faster, but an engine failure stopped me from completing another run on new tyres. I got two runs on fresh tyres, and set the fastest time on the first. On the second, I made a mistake in the first corner, but was then catching my time during the rest of the lap, and then didn't go out again with new tyres. However, there is still a lot of performance to come: I definitely didn't reach the limits of the R23. Things only become really difficult when you try and squeeze the last few tenths out of the car, and I didn't get to that stage.

Q: So what does the immediate future hold for you?

HK: I will be testing for Minardi next week, and then the RDD programme will decide what the future holds. I would love to get into F1, and after this run I have the confidence that I could do a good job, but it may be a good idea to wait another year: there is still lots of work to do on my technical ability, and the physical side. I am sure I could have gone faster, but I suppose everybody says that after their first test! Overall, it has been a good confidence boost, and a fantastic opportunity to work with the team: everybody was very professional, but I felt comfortable straight away. They gave me a great welcome.

-renault-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Heikki Kovalainen
Teams Renault F1 Team , Minardi