Heikki Kovalainen will have his hands full in the frantic dash down to Turn 1 after qualifying for this afternoon’s Hungarian Grand Prix on the dirtier side of the grid, but the Finn has made it clear he is not about to give his team-mate Lewis Hamilton an inch breathing space.
Kovalainen planted his McLaren firmly on the front row in qualifying, sandwiching himself between Hamilton, one of the most aggressive starters in the field, and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who has made clear his intention to intervene in an all-silver procession into the first corner.
But Kovalainen, who has faced unfair suggestions that he has begun to fall into a support role at McLaren after yielding to his team-mate at Silverstone and Hockenheim, has vowed to be aggressive off the start-line.
“I’ll attack tomorrow as much as I can at the start,” he affirmed, and when asked if his priority was to take the fight to Hamilton or defend a charging Felipe Massa, Kovalainen admitted that he will have his hands full with both endeavours.
“Ideally both, but we will fight with Lewis and I will try to pass him but he will try to defend. We respect each other and at the end of the day, we are employed by the team and we try to do the best job for the team that we can.”
Kovalainen pointed to Silverstone as case in point, here the two McLaren drivers almost took each other out at the opening corner, as Hamilton squeezed his team-mate, to no avail on the inside.
“At the start of Silverstone, we do race but we also know where the limit is. I think as it is with the guys at the top in Formula One, you can push people hard and you race hard but fair. There’s nothing wrong with that”
Starting on the side closest to the pit-wall has historically proved a disadvantage around the dusty Hungaroring. But that has done little to faze Kovalainen who as set his sights firmly on a good getaway.
“Yeah, it’s not ideal but it’s better to be ahead of the other people. To be honest, as we saw at Hockenheim, I was expecting it to make a bigger difference but it didn’t.”
“So I hope it’s the case here as well. I’m not going to stress myself about it. I’ll attack tomorrow as much as I can at the start and we will see how it works out but I’m not going to lose sleep because of that.”
The omens laid down in the GP2 support race on Sunday morning bode well for Kovalainen. Trust Team Arden’s Sebastien Buemi started on the dirty side on the grid in P2 but got a solid get-away and was challenging Andy Soucek (Super Nova Racing) into the first corner.