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Exclusive Kovalainen Q&A - there’s light at the end of the tunnel 04 Jun 2009

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 4 June 2009 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 24 May 2009 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 4 June 2009 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 3 April 2009 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 3 April 2009

McLaren have endured their fair share of unsatisfying results this season, not unlike their 2008 championship rivals, Ferrari and BMW Sauber. But the Woking-based team has been part of Formula One racing long enough to know that success in this sport is cyclical. And even though Heikki Kovalainen has not had much to cheer about at the opening six races, the Finn is feeling optimistic about this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix and the latest modifications McLaren have brought to €stanbul…

Q: Heikki, how would you describe your season so far? You didn’t start the year thinking you’d only have four points from the first six races…
Heikki Kovalainen:
Absolutely not! € was hoping to have more points and it is really disappointing that € have only finished two races so far. But there is nothing that we can do about it, as it is in the past. So we move on and concentrate on the next races and try to do better.

Q: What is the trouble with the MP4-24? Neither Lewis nor you have clinched a podium yet...
HK:
€ think the most important thing for us are the high-speed corners. That is where we lose quite a lot of lap time to the other teams. We are lacking high-speed grip on the car, but we are working very hard to improve it. We have already made improvements and we are carrying on doing that.

Q: Some say that the fight for last year’s championship was exhausting for McLaren, Ferrari and BMW Sauber and locked up too many resources. Could that explain the downturn?
HK:
€t could contribute a little, but € don’t think that it is as straightforward as that. There are other factors. But probably that is one of them.

Q: From your six races you’ve had four retirements. €t looks like reliability is a bit of an issue. What do you think is the car’s the Achilles heel?
HK:
€t’s not with the car, really. € haven’t had any big problems with the car. € made mistakes in Australia, Malaysia and Monaco. So there’s not much € can do about it except make it better.

Q: Your P7 grid position in Monaco was your best of the season. Was that a slight sign of recovery?
HK:
€ think there really is light at the end of the tunnel and we are making progress on the car all the time. And we will carry on doing that until we are able to win races again. Monaco is a special circuit and the car was performing much better than at other tracks.

Q: After Monaco, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa said that the in-season test ban is hampering his team in improving the car. Do you have a similar view?
HK:
We would definitely like to test more. €f we could test on the track we would make better progress. As this is not possible, we have to use other tools and other measures to understand the car and how to improve it.

Q: McLaren was so accustomed to winning. How difficult is it to accept this situation? And how do you as a driver cope with it?
HK:
€t’s not really that different to last season. The races so far might have been a little trying, but we are not dwelling on the problems. We are realistic and we are making progress. Everybody has their ups and downs, even the other teams. €t is a difficult time for us and we just have to stay strong, move on and come back stronger.

Q: The engineers back in Woking will surely be working extra shifts. What is new on the car for Turkey and what are your hopes for those changes?
HK:
Again we have a modified floor, which will hopefully give us more grip in the high-speed corners, and also we have improved the modified front wing, as an attempt to increase the downforce level. We will test the modifications on Friday to see how they perform. € hope they deliver, as € am sure the team would not bring them without thinking that they will improve the performance.

Q: What has to happen this weekend to put a smile on your face?
HK:
To win the race. Sure, there are other guys out there hoping for the same, but we are not satisfied unless we win a race - everything is secondary after that.