Heikki Kovalainen has refused to rule himself out of an increasingly crowded title race despite sitting almost thirty points behind the championship leaders.
The Finnish ace is fast gaining a reputation as one of the most unluckiest drivers on the grid after a catalogue of problems and incidents this season. A wheel rim failure in Spain, followed by a puncture in Turkey, a gear selection problem in Monaco, and an ill-timed safety car in Canada, have left the 26-year-old dangerously out of touch with the championship leaders.
However, the McLaren driver is insists he is not thinking about the points table and that the championship is still wide open.
“I’m not really looking at the points tables at the moment,” confirmed Kovalainen. “The world title is still wide open, and having an opportunity to score good points in France will only help me. I’m still absolutely determined to get my first win under my belt.”
Despite his so far disappointing results, Kovalainen has shown impressive pace in qualifying, matching and surpassing team-mate Hamilton on more than one occasion.
“As I’ve been saying all season, I’m gradually getting to grips with this car even if the results haven’t backed it up. And I really enjoy Magny-Cours so I’m looking forward to making progress throughout practice and being in a very good position for the race itself.”
McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile has made it clear that Kovalainen’s pace behind the wheel of his MP4-23 has not gone unnoticed. And he acknowledges that McLaren’s hopes of winning the French Grand Prix rest principally with the Finn given Lewis Hamilton’s ten place grid penalty.
“In every race he’s done for us so far, Heikki has done a fantastic job and if you look at fuel-corrected times, he’s frequently out-qualified Lewis,” said the Englishman. This weekend, for whatever reason, he didn’t quite get on it.”
“We know he puts a lot of pressure on himself but, as a team, we very much believe in him and think he’s robust enough in his approach that he’ll recover in time. In reality, he’s the guy who is our best hope of winning the French Grand Prix.”