Rookie Finn puts Australian troubles behind him at Sepang
After coming in for widespread criticism for his debut performance in Melbourne, Renaults Heikki Kovalainen silenced his critics on Sunday with a considered drive to eighth place in the Malaysian Grand Prix. It gave the Finn his first world championship point.
Renault freely admitted that they are currently not on the same performance level as McLaren, Ferrari and BMW, but both Kovalainen and team mate Giancarlo Fisichella made the best of things to bring the French squad four welcome points.
This was my first F1 point, so it's a nice feeling after such a tough race, said Kovalainen, who started 11th on the grid. I attacked every lap today, just pushing as hard as possible to try and make up positions. The balance was similar to qualifying, and a little unpredictable in the high-speed corners, which meant I had some moments in Turn 6, but that happens when you are on the limit.
For me, the race was a definite step forward compared to Melbourne, and our competitiveness was better than we showed in qualifying. I think we are moving in the right direction, and I know the team will stay strong and keep their heads up, even though we are not winning at the moment. Hopefully we can take another step in Bahrain next weekend.
Fisichella, meanwhile, made a superb race start, moving from 12th on the grid to P8 on lap one and then going on to finish in sixth, making the world champions the best of the rest behind the top three teams. The Italians performance brought with it rare praise from team boss Flavio Briatore.
Fisico was perfect today, with a strong, consistent race, said Briatore, who also commended his other driver. Heikki got his first point, erased the memory of Melbourne and did an encouraging performance for himself and the team. We have achieved our maximum today, now we need to carry on working to improve our potential for the next races.
After two rounds, Renault lie fourth in the constructors standings, two points behind BMW Sauber, but five ahead of fifth-placed Toyota.