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Q&A with Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen 06 Sep 2006

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Turkish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, 25 August 2006

After being confirmed as Giancarlo Fisichella’s 2007 team mate on Wednesday morning, Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen gives his feelings on the announcement…

Q: You have been officially named as a Renault race driver for the 2007 season. What effect has it had on you?
Heikki Kovalainen:
I'm really happy with the decision, and it is a big boost for my motivation. I am really looking forward to my first season in Formula One, and to be starting it with a top team. But first things first, we still need to finish 2006 in the right way. I have a couple of important test sessions left, and we need to do a good job before thinking about next year.

Q: You will be replacing a world champion in Fernando Alonso. How are you going to fill his shoes?
HK:
I think next year is a new start for me. There will be high expectations straight away, but I will not look at it as extra pressure. I will be aiming to tick off my goals one by one: to finish my first race, hopefully to do it in the points and to improve all year. We should have a car capable of bringing good results, and I need to deliver them. But I will be starting the job in a calm, easy frame of mind.

Q: What do you think led the Renault team to promote you to a race seat?
HK:
Hopefully the pace, because that's always what the engineers are looking at - even when they say they are not! I have been consistent, always trying to push the car and give good feedback. The engineers have given me feedback on my job too and, whether it was positive or negative, I have tried to respond either way. I think I have succeeded in doing that, and I feel very confident with the car now.

Q: How would you describe your relationship with the team?
HK:
It is already very close. I started testing with them in 2004, and the relationship has just got better and better since then. I have improved my job, worked hard with the engineers, and this is the best possible conclusion - to make my Formula One debut with a team I know really well.

Q: And how about your team mate for next year, Giancarlo Fisichella? Do you get on well?
HK:
I think Fisi is the best possible team mate I could have. He is experienced, he's very quick and we get on well on a personal level, with a similar sense of humour. We work well, and we have a laugh together as well.

Q: Looking ahead six months, how do you think it will feel, lining up on the grid in Melbourne?
HK:
I am sure I will have a few butterflies in my stomach! In reality, though, I will be going back to what I have done all my life, which is racing. This year has been the unusual one, not being out on the track competing. So on the grid, I'm going to be thinking about getting a good start, finding the braking point for Turn 1, and going from there. It will just be one race in the calendar, and if I do my normal job then I should have a good result.

Q: Finally, how will the announcement change the way you work in the coming weeks and months?
HK:
I don't think it changes anything at all, I will carry on doing the same things I have done. I have found what I believe is a good way of working, which is to push 100 percent all the time, and to try and improve with every lap. Nothing changes from that point of view. I will be driving the same way, working with the team to improve and listening to their advice to have the best preparation I possibly can.