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Q&A with McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen 14 Dec 2007

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, Thursday, 6 September 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 7 September 2007

Back in March 2007 Heikki Kovalainen began his Formula One race career with reigning world champions Renault. Now he has landed one of the hottest seats on the grid for 2008, partnering Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. Here Kovalainen reveals how the move came about - and what he expects to achieve with his new team…

Q: How does it feel to be a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver?
Heikki Kovalainen:
It feels fantastic thank you. The team has always been popular in Finland because of both Mika (Hakkinen) and Kimi’s (Raikkonen) involvement, so when I was growing up there was a massive awareness of McLaren Mercedes especially when Mika won the world championship twice. I am so happy to be part of this team. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but I can’t wait.

Q: When did you start talking to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes about a race drive?
Once I had been informed by Renault about their driver plans my management and I began to explore a number of options in Formula One. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was obviously an incredibly attractive opportunity and we began talking and here we are… I am pleased it all worked out.

Q: You will be team mates with Lewis Hamilton - how well do you know Lewis?
I don’t know Lewis that well but we have spoken on a number of occasions during 2007. From what I have seen and heard he is a nice guy.

Q: Lewis has been with the team for many years and consequently has a strong relationship with the team and management - are you worried that this will affect you settling into the team?
Not at all. It’s up to me to build relationships with the team and the people around me, and I know everybody is excited about me joining, so I don’t think that will be a problem at all. The one thing that has struck me so far is just how professional and dedicated the team is, and I know they will work so hard to give me the best opportunity. Also after the 2007 season I don’t think there can be any doubt that the team is totally committed to equality amongst its drivers and I like that.

Q: When did you visit the McLaren Technology Centre for the first time and what is your initial impression?
The first time I came to the McLaren Technology Centre I was just blown away. I have seen photographs and films from there but it doesn’t prepare you for the wow effect when you actually arrive. You have that initial impact as you start to look around and then you begin to feel the atmosphere. I visited the McLaren Technology Centre for the first time only a few days ago.

Q: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes had a tough year off track in 2007 - does that kind of thing worry you as a driver and did that affect your decision in any way?
I am employed to drive the car and am not a political animal at all. There was obviously a lot going on in 2007 but it’s not for me to talk about. I just look forward to a competitive and fun future with the team.

Q: Obviously your former Renault team mate Fernando Alonso’s and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes partnership didn’t work out - does that worry you?
Not in the slightest. It’s not for me to judge what went wrong with Fernando and the team and I am really not interested. All I can say is how I feel about my opportunity and I am really excited and happy.

Q: Do you think you can win the world championship in 2008?
Any driver has to enter into a race and a world championship believing he can win it so of course I do. However there is a long way to go and at the moment I am just looking forward to familiarising myself with the new car and the team.