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Q & A with Renault's Heikki Kovalainen 06 Dec 2004

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R24. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 28-30 September 2004. World © Capilitan/Sutton

ROC win “a nice way to round off the year," says Finn

Heikki Kovalainen took victory in the Race of Champions at the Stade de France at the weekend. Afterwards, the Renault Driver Development programme member talked to the Formula One team about the experience of beating Michael Schumacher.

Q: You were the youngest driver competing and also the least experienced. How did you win?
I was able to adapt to the cars very quickly, which meant I found more grip than the others. Adaptability is definitely one of the keys to success. I also learned the circuit very quickly which helped. But to be honest, I still can't believe it: the other drivers are all very talented, with lots of experience! It's hard to believe I set lap records with every car.

Q: Michael Schumacher said about you, "he has something special". How does that make you feel?
It's very nice! Michael is a unique driver, and it is a real compliment coming from him. I don't know if I have something special, but I know that with a good car and a good team behind me, I am capable of getting good results. I proved it this year in the World Series. To be perfectly honest, when I came up against Michael in the final, I thought I would lose - even if I knew I could make it close. When I was invited to the ROC, I was dreaming of coming up against him. so when I crossed the line in front, I was ecstatic! It was the first, and maybe only, opportunity for me to judge myself against him, so I took the chance and managed to win. I jumped on the roof afterwards to celebrate, and that seemed to go down well with the crowd! Beating Michael was exciting, but I think it was bigger achievement to beat Loeb: I didn't think I had a chance against the World Rally Champion, in a rally car. From my point of view, that was a very strong win.

Q: You are the fastest driver on the planet. That's pretty impressive!
It's a nice way to round off the season! The fact that I was invited to take part in the Race of Champions has brought me to people's attention - the World Series by Nissan did not have much exposure, even though it was a championship at a high level with good racing. I think that having won the Race of Champions will help my popularity more than winning the World Series. But having said that, it won't change my future: the people at Renault have always made good decisions on my behalf. I have been in the Renault Driver Development programme for three years now and I trust them. I am pleased to win this race for them as well.

Q: Can you tell us where you will be driving next year?
I will be in GP2, where I hope to get good results. It's definitely the best championship for me because it will be the final stepping stone to F1. I am very excited about next year! I know there is still a lot for me to learn, but I hope I will be with a good team that will give me a chance to win races and fight for the title.