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Kovalainen out to do Renault justice 24 Jan 2007

(L to R): Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault and Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault. Renault R27 Launch, Amsterdam, Holland. 24 January 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton

Few Formula One drivers begin their careers racing for the reigning world champions. Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen is among the lucky few - and the Finn is determined to repay the team for the belief they have shown in him.

Kovalainen has completed over 30,000 testing kilometres for Renault in recent seasons. A member of the team’s driver development programme since 2002, he was awarded a full-time Formula One test seat last season. That became a race seat after he was selected to replace departing world champion Fernando Alonso for 2007.

“I know that so far, I have achieved nothing at all,” said a modest Kovalainen at Wednesday’s launch of Renault’s new R27 car. “But I pushed myself very hard last year in testing, to show the team that I was capable of doing the job. They had faith in me, and now it is my turn to deliver on that promise. It is a big privilege for a rookie driver to start his career in a race-winning car, and I am focused on doing it justice.”

Despite his extensive testing experience with the team, Kovalainen is under no illusions when it comes to his chances of success in 2007. Partnering Italian veteran Giancarlo Fisichella, he will be out to assimilate all the knowledge he can from his older team mate, even if he doesn’t necessarily expect to match him.

“This will be a season where I have a lot to learn, and I need to keep mistakes to a minimum,” he added. “There will be pressure, but that will come from me, because I always drive myself to improve in every area.”

Kovalainen hasn’t driven competitively on a regular basis since 2005 when he finished runner-up to Nico Rosberg in the inaugural GP2 championship. However, the Finn seems unconcerned over the prospect of being ‘race rusty’ as he prepares to make his Grand Prix debut in Australia in March.

“Overall, I am expecting 2007 to be a fantastic year for me,” he said. “I am in the best possible place to start my career, and my focus is on preparing as thoroughly as possible for the first race - and the 16 to come after that!”