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.
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.