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Interview with Renault's Heikki Kovalainen 26 Jun 2007

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Indianapolis, USA, Saturday, 16 June 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 8 June 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN), Renault R27. Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, Day Two, Wednesday 20 June 2007. World © Ryder/Sutton Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Friday, 13 April 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27 returns to the pits after blowing his engine.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Montreal, Canada, Saturday, 9 June 2007

After gleaning nine points from the last two Grands Prix, Heikki Kovalainen’s slow start to the season seems to be firmly behind him. Here, Kovalainen considers how his strong results in North America have affected his confidence and looks ahead to this weekend’s race at Magny-Cours…

Q: Heikki, two strong races in North America and a positive test in Silverstone last week… things seem to be coming together for you at the moment?
Heikki Kovalainen:
I think I have some good momentum going at the moment - and I want to maintain that in France this weekend. Montreal was my best result so far in F1, and Indianapolis was my best race: a strong weekend, no mistakes, no problems, five laps led and a good level of performance from me and from the car. I am still improving every time I drive, learning and putting it into practice. And as we develop the car, that is showing in my race results.

Q: Tell us a little about the R27. What has changed since the start of the season?
We had a car that was difficult to drive. It was mainly inconsistency - one lap, you would go into a corner and it would be fine; next lap, a tiny change could mean you missed the corner completely. That meant it was hard to perform consistently. Since then, the team has done a great job improving the car, finding the problems and fixing them. We are going in the right direction and getting there, step-by-step. We have better consistency, more downforce, and that gives the drivers more confidence. The result? Improved performances.

Q: Have your strong races in North America given you more confidence in the car?
For me, nothing has changed. I came into F1 with confidence in my ability. I always push to the limit, always attack and try to be aggressive. Sometimes this year, I have overstepped the mark. But I never lose confidence, never let my head go down. I always believed that things would come together for me, and I was positive even in the difficult moments. I think that the results in North America have changed the perceptions around me, not my confidence in myself. My job is to focus on the essentials, block out the rest - and drive to my full potential.

Q: Last year, your work was mainly with the test team. This year, you have obviously been working primarily with the race team. How is the relationship there?
Great - just like it was last year. I have been around the team since 2002, when I joined the RDD (Renault Driver Development) programme, and I knew a lot of the guys already before the season. But I have been so impressed with the team and their approach this year. They are all world champions but even when we have qualified 13th, or had reliability problems, their commitment has been 100 percent. I still remember qualifying in Canada, when the guys repaired my damaged car in about five minutes to get me back out on track. It was an incredible effort, and it says so much about why this team are double world champions.

Q: What about Magny-Cours? Can you repeat the results from North America in France?
Hopefully! It's no secret that France is a really important race for Renault, and racing in front of all the people from the factory at Viry, and the other Renault factories, makes the atmosphere very special for us. When I last raced in Magny-Cours in GP2, I had one win and one podium, and it’s a circuit I enjoy: there are some quick corners, and some good high-speed chicanes that you need to attack to get a good lap-time. I think we made another step with the car last week at Silverstone, so I am looking forward to getting out there on Friday, and seeing how things stack up. We got the maximum out of our package in Indy. We have to do the same again this weekend.