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Q&A with McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen 29 Feb 2008

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Mclaren Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 14 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 02 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 25 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton Heikki Kovalainen tests the McLaren Mercedes MP4-23, Jerez, Spain, 11 January 2008. © McLaren Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 26 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton

A year on from his debut with Renault, Heikki Kovalainen is adjusting to life at a new team - McLaren. And with the MP4-23 showing fine form during the winter tests, Kovalainen looks to be in prime position to launch a championship challenge. Speaking to the squad’s press office, the Finn explains his preparations for the season ahead…

Q: You have come to the end of winter testing, what have been the highlights for you?
Heikki Kovalainen:
There hasn’t been a particular highlight as it has been an overall good winter. We have improved the car, I have improved myself and I have gotten to know the team better. Everything has just very positive; there haven’t been any negative moments. Of course some days are more difficult than others but we are making progress all the time. So overall a very good winter and we have the pace to have a strong year.

Q: What areas of the car have you concentrated on this last week?
The aerodynamic improvements are probably the biggest thing that we are concentrating on. We have also improved the engine, not so much the power, as that is fixed, but the driveability and trying to control the car better. Mechanically we have improved the car, and we have new parts coming all the time. With me, we are working on improving my driving all the time by going through the data and the engineers are giving me tips to help me go quicker.

Q: Have you fully adapted to driving without traction control?
Probably not fully as there is always room for improvement and I must improve all the time, but I think I have found a consistent level now.

Q: Do you have a favourite test track?
Barcelona is really nice. There are some high-speed corners, some challenging parts of the track, a variety of chicanes, some hard braking areas, and I think we can learn a lot here. I would say I enjoy this place the most, but of course when you come here all the time, sometimes you want to have a change.

Q: How is your winter fitness programme going?
It is going very well. I have changed things slightly from what I had been doing before and been improving my physical side. This is something that has to be worked on each year to make sure that you are even better prepared than the previous year. I am working with my new trainer, and it is going really well. I believe I am better prepared than last year.

Q: What areas are you concentrating on?
Maybe more on the power side, working on speeding up the muscles and making them more flexible. We are doing less cardio work. In the past this has always been strong for me and I have enjoyed it more, so we have changed the balance more to the fitness side and to generally improve all round. Also we have started to take nutrition into account and I have a plan for what I can eat and drink.

Q: How you spend a typical day in this pre-season time?
As Lewis (Hamilton) says, there is no such thing as a typical day. But a typical testing day starts very early as normally the first meeting of the day is at a 7.45, as a result I am up around 6.50. After a good breakfast I will go running with my trainer at 9.00, we tend to have a planned programme for around four hours; then we have a lunch break before starting a second testing programme in the afternoon. Half an hour after testing is finished we have the post-test meeting and debrief. I usually have dinner at the circuit and go back to the hotel just after 19.00. Sometimes I do some stretching work with my trainer, particularly if it has been a difficult day. At home I try to keep the same rhythm and so I wake up early still and try to have breakfast at the same time as I do at the test. I always do some training, I try to do two separate sessions a day but sometimes I can only fit in one session. When that is the case I always do that it the afternoon, to simulate the time my body would be active during the race. In addition to this I just do quite normal stuff, play computer games, surf the internet, watch movies, and go out.

Q: Finally, Wednesday was the last day of testing before the start of the new season, what will you be doing between now and the race in Australia?
We will focus some more on training and I will also spend time at the McLaren Technology Centre with my engineers and undertaking some simulation work. I will also fit in a visit to the Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines facility in Brixworth before departing for Australia next week, where I will spend some time acclimatising to the time difference, do some training and recharge my batteries for the first race in Melbourne.