Kovalainen overjoyed with first podium finish 30 Sep 2007
Renaults Heikki Kovalainen made up for his poor grid slot in Japan in spectacular fashion on Sunday, taking his maiden Formula One podium place. Kovalainen, who had qualified in 11th at the Fuji Speedway, finished second behind race winner Lewis Hamilton.
The strategy worked perfectly today, and the team deserves at least one podium today! said the Finn. It is a fantastic feeling to score my first podium.
Kovalainen, who had set-up his R27 for dry conditions, was initially disappointed to see rain falling. But after biding his time during the opening laps behind the safety car, he was able to take advantage of a one-stop strategy - and the collision between Red Bulls Mark Webber and Toro Rossos Sebastian Vettel - to get himself into P2.
But by that point he had a problem - Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen was closing in quickly. The pair tussled for several laps, but thanks to a determined defence from Kovalainen, Raikkonen was unable to make a passing move stick on his fellow countryman.
I was watching the pit-board, and every lap the gap was coming down, so I knew he would try something, Kovalainen explained. He got past me into Turn Six on the final lap, but I wanted P2 so much that I went back round the outside on the way down to Turn 10. The car was aquaplaning all over the place, but I kept my foot in and got back ahead, hoping I wouldn't lose the car.
It was a good day all round for Renault. Not only did they secure their first podium of the season, Kovalainen's team mate, Giancarlo Fisichella, finished in fifth place to glean another four points for the French squad.