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A pretty good day - Q&A with Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen 15 Nov 2013

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, USA, Thursday, 14 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013

Drafted in at the last minute to replace Kimi Raikkonen, Heikki Kovalainen had his work cut out at Lotus on Friday, especially after the shortened first practice session in Austin. But the experienced Finn quickly found his feet, outpacing highly regarded team mate Romain Grosjean in Practice 2. Kovalainen is, however, keeping his expectations firmly in check for qualifying and race…

Q: Heikki, the fifth best time in the afternoon - faster than Ferrari and faster than your team mate. Are you surprised?
Heikki Kovalainen:
To be honest, yes. I didn’t know what to expect as it was such short notice - so yes, it was a pretty good day. The car straight away had a good balance and I felt comfortable straight away in the car. It might be funny to hear this from me - the ‘temporary staff’ - but we need to improve a bit tomorrow to stay competitive. The long runs felt good. It’s the short runs where we probably could do better. But overall, not too bad! (laughs)

Q: In the course of your career you drove a number of Formula One cars. Is the Lotus the best car you’ve ever driven?
HK:
That’s difficult to answer because a lot of things have changed in the course of my career. The 2008 McLaren was a really good car. The 2005 and 2006 Renault was a really good car, but they were different times then so it is difficult to compare. It is definitely a quicker car than the Caterham that I have driven in the last few years. It has more performance here than the Caterham car.

Q: What are your ambitions for qualifying? Second row?
HK:
Who knows? It is probably better not to speculate too much as it could be a disaster - or it could be fantastic. Both options are possible. The main thing is if we can improve from today a little bit, things should look good. On the other hand it is so easy to fall out of Q3 if we botch things. So to stay focused is what will matter tomorrow.

Q: Your team mate Romain Grosjean was probably surprised by your level of performance and said that he is now expecting you to chase him in qualifying and in the race. Could that be?
HK:
Perhaps. Lotus hired me to help them score points, so they had some idea of what I can do - and I personally feel that I can do the job. But the short transition time from another team is not such an easy thing to swallow - and that is starting with the right seat. True, things have worked out pretty good today, but I am under no illusions that this is just a Friday and that tomorrow can be a disaster. Romain had some issues today so he will be quicker tomorrow, but what is really important is that it was a good day for me - that I have seen what I am capable of doing and once I have more mileage again under my belt it will all come back ‘with a vengeance’! (laughs)

Q: How does it feel to be back in a good car again?
HK:
I am, of course, very pleased and believe me, it is nice chasing Ferraris and McLarens. But when it comes down to the real car, it’s not so much difference to what I’ve been driving the last couple of years - it’s just that when you cross the finish line that the lap times are better. Even in a good car you have oversteer and understeer, front or back locking - these things are the same. It’s just the pace that is better.

Q: Have you surprised yourself a bit?
HK:
When I jumped in the car in the morning I didn’t have much expectation. I accepted this job because I was convinced that I could do it - and if we manage to improve tomorrow I am pretty convinced that I will deliver. I promised the team and myself some points, so keep fingers crossed.

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