Q&A with Renaults Heikki Kovalainen 19 Jul 2007
With the R27 looking stronger than it has all season, Renault are cautiously confident that they can bounce back enough to finish third in the championship. Here, driver Heikki Kovalainen reveals what he believes might be achievable and assesses his chances at the forthcoming European Grand Prix...
Q: Heikki, the last two races showed the team still has work to do in order to beat BMW Sauber. Is it difficult to stay motivated during these times?
Heikki Kovalainen: Not at all! Everybody in the team knows that we have only just passed the halfway point of the season, and that there is still a long way to go. The team has done a fantastic job to fix the problems we had at the start of the season, and I think we are all determined to show that we can bounce back. I still think that third place in the championship is achievable. It's going to be tough, but I believe we can do it!
Q: This year's German round of the championship will be at the Nurburgring. Would you have preferred Hockenheim?
HK: No, not really! In GP2, I had a very good race at this circuit, and it's probably my best memory of that championship. I won the first race on Saturday after starting from P17 on the grid. It was a consistent drive, we had a very good strategy and everything came together. At Hockenheim, I wasn't very competitive when I raced in GP2, so I'm pleased that my first F1 race is at the track where I did well! And to be honest, I think it's a more enjoyable circuit too, with some quite tough high-speed corners.
Q: This season has already seen a number of races take place in unusual weather conditions. If we encounter hot conditions at the Nurburgring, as you might expect in the middle of summer, what will that affect in terms of the set-up?
HK: I think we are well-prepared for a race in hot temperatures. Malaysia is always the toughest race from this point of view, and the most important factor will be to avoid disrupting the car's aerodynamic performance if we need extra cooling. Like at every race, we will push the cooling to the limit, while maintaining optimum aerodynamic performance. That's always a difficult compromise to achieve.
Q: What areas of the set-up will you be focusing on with the R27?
HK: I have never driven an F1 car on this circuit, but as always, I think you need a stable balance in the high-speed corners. On the way back up the hill from the hairpin, there are two high-speed right-left sections, and a good balance is important if you want to gain time. The other crucial factor will be to have good braking stability, to ensure we can attack the braking zones and corners with confidence. We will work on both of these areas during Friday practice, and also on Saturday morning during our qualifying preparation. Qualifying in the top ten is absolutely vital, and finding a good set-up for that single timed lap will be a major focus for us during practice.