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Exclusive - Kovalainen and Fisichella on 2007 15 Nov 2007

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault and Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 15 April 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27 and Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Race, Indianapolis, USA, Sunday, 17 June 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27, Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 15 November 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault celebrates 2nd place with his team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Fuji Speedway, Fuji, Japan, Sunday, 30 September 2007 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 15 September 2007

As the grid’s reigning title holders, Renault were ready for an even better 2007. The R27, however, had other ideas, as the French team struggled to get near the kind of performances they had enjoyed in 2006.

It meant drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella were left fighting it out in a bid to prove why each deserved to retain their Renault seat next season. Here Kovalainen and Fisichella examine their trying 2007 campaigns and look ahead to 2008…

Heikki Kovalainen, Renault
Championship position: 7th (30 points)
Best race result: 2nd (x1), Best qualifying: 6th (x3)

“Can I say I was pleased with my first season in Formula One? Like always in this sport, the answer is a compromise, and more complicated than a simple yes or no. Overall, I would have to say that 2007 didn’t live up to expectations. Not my expectations for the season, nor the team’s usual standards either. We came into the year hoping to fight for regular podiums, off the back of two championship years. And in the end, we got one podium and we were the fourth quickest team over the 17 races. I put in some good drives, but I know that I am capable of doing better in the future.

“I am always harsh with myself when it comes to self-criticism, and I will be this winter. My level at the start of the year wasn’t good enough, not mentally or physically, and it showed in the opening races. I talked a lot with the team, we discussed how to improve the situation, and I knuckled down to work harder. Plus I never, ever stopped believing in myself.

“Eventually, things turned around with a crazy race in Canada, where I kept my cool and resisted a lot of pressure. It was the same thing in Indy one week later, and then my season really got into its swing. I finished in the points seven races in a row in the second part of the year, culminating in my first ever podium in Japan. And people started to understand that I really deserved my place in Formula One.

“Looking ahead to 2008, I have already started working. For me, there is no holiday this winter, just hard work. My dream is to become world champion and I know that if I am going to achieve it one day, I must be better prepared than in 2007. I am confident I will be in F1 next year, and I hope it will be with Renault. This is a fantastic team and they never gave up all year. They deserve to get back to the front in 2008, and I would love to be the driver who takes them there.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
Championship position: 8th (21 points)
Best race result: 4th (x1), Best qualifying: 4th (x1)

“2007 was a season of initial disappointment, followed by a lot of hard work. We came into the year as world champions, and I expected that we would be able to maintain that level in 2007 - and that I would have my chance to fight for the world championship. From the first race, though, we knew that it wouldn’t be possible and that a very different road lay ahead. But like the champions they are, Renault got to work - and I did the best I could to help turn things around.

“I believe my experience played an important role at the start of the year. I have driven some difficult cars in my career, and that meant I could identify quickly the problems we were having - but also to take the car to its limits, without going beyond them. I showed that in difficult races like Australia and Monaco, where we got the absolute maximum from the package and managed to establish ourselves firmly as best of the rest.

“I had a difficult second half of the year: I made two mistakes in Canada and Indianapolis but still showed my speed, we tried some strategies that didn’t quite work out, and sometimes I had to play the team game in the races. But eventually, after several races finishing outside the top eight, I got back into the points in Japan with the team’s best result of the year. My team mate stood up on the podium, but it was the result of a lot of hard work by every single member of the team, and very much deserved.

“I finished the season in eighth position, right behind Heikki in seventh, and that reflects where we were this year: the fourth-fastest team. I believe that it shows we drove the car to the limits of its potential. How would I sum up 2007? A year of what might have been, I think. Physically and mentally, I am still in great shape and I know I could have challenged at the front this year. Now I am just waiting for a decision from Renault, to understand what all the options are. Wherever I am driving next year, I’m confident that I still have a lot to bring to any team on the grid.”