Exclusive interview with Renaults Heikki Kovalainen 04 Aug 2007
Heikki Kovalainens second-fastest Friday practice time in Hungary was his best-ever result during a race weekend. Even if practice sessions rarely mirror the outcome of a race, it undoubtedly represents an important psychological boost to the Renault driver. It indicates that Kovalainen may have finally arrived at the performance level he has been striving for since the start of the season. Its no wonder then that the Finn is in excellent mood
Q: The Renaults performance level two weeks ago at Nurburgring and its progress so far in Hungary seems to be worlds apart. What has happened?
Heikki Kovalainen: The car behaved much better right away and my feelings are very positive. On Friday though all teams try different things so it is difficult to really say where we are. But at least we do not have to make overnight adjustments as we had to do at the last couple of races. Hopefully this is a good sign.
Q: Did you run through different programmes during the two Friday sessions?
HK: Yes, a little bit. We were running a bit less steer at the beginning of the second session as we felt it was the best thing to do here and the lap time proved we were right. It was easy to drive the car.
Q: One of the key issues this weekend seems to be softer tyres versus the harder tyres. What is your preference?
HK: Luckily we dont have any problems with any of the tyres. I was expecting that we might run into problems a bit with the softer tyres, but they also worked very well, even in the longer runs. The situation with the two tyre specs seems to be quite even - in sharp contrast to other races in the past.
Q: What tyres were you running on your fast lap?
HK: The soft tyres.
Q: You were testing in Jerez last week. How important was that test and what improvements did you make ahead of coming to Hungary?
HK: The test was very important for us as we are a little behind in our car development. I had the chance to get more mileage with the new front wing from Nurburgring and had more time to evaluate its performance. We are moving ahead step-by-step and it was a good preparation for this weekend, as normally the temperatures here are relatively high like they were in Jerez. I think we found a good pace.
Q: Even if the Friday results are sometimes misleading, your second place must at least be a psychological boost
HK: For sure. It is always better to be second than second to last. But to be honest, our programme on Friday seems to be a little different to many other teams and thats why we are sometimes at the bottom of the sheet and sometimes at the top. Hopefully today was a good sign that we are on the way to being more competitive again.
Q: Renault team principal Flavio Briatore recently said that your slow start to the season was the teams fault for not supplying you with a car that suits your driving style. Is a solution to that problem in sight?
HK: Ah, very kind words from Flavio. But they are probably true. At the beginning of the season the car certainly wasnt like it was last year. In 2006 there was a lot of confidence in the car. I could almost drive like I wanted on every track and, if I missed the braking point a little bit and had to brake harder; I could still get the car around the corner. But this year, especially at the beginning, this was not the case. It was difficult for me to understand why I had to slow down more when I wanted to push, and push, and push, and go faster. Now that the improvements have started to show results there is much more confidence - especially with the front of the car. I can again push a little bit more as the car is forgiving a little bit more and that gives me the confidence that, even when I am too fast, I know that I can still make the corner. And that is what matters.
Q: With this new-found confidence what are your expectations for the rest of the weekend?
HK: To qualify in the top ten and, as Sunday might get wet again, it is impossible to make any predictions - as we saw two weeks ago. But with much better handling - and a cool head - points are within our reach.