Renault’s new race driver, Heikki Kovalainen, has said he feels he can match the success of his predecessor, Alonso. Although 2007 is his Formula 1 debut season, Kovalainen is not worried about what is expected of him.
“I don’t feel I have any more pressure than I would have had replacing someone who hadn’t won two championships,” said Kovalainen. “There is always pressure in F1. Even this year when I was testing [for Renault] I always put pressure on myself to do good times and be consistent and to always squeeze everything out of myself and the car. That will be the case next year.”
His boss Pat Symonds has confidence in his new signing and believes that Kovalainen will make a positive impact on Formula 1 next season. “I think he’s going to be quick and make mistakes, and that’s a pretty good thing for a rookie driver,” Symonds said. “Being slow and not making mistakes isn’t terribly exciting while being slow and making mistakes is a disaster. But being quick and making the odd mistake along the way is pretty acceptable.”
Kovalainen has been a part of Renault’s driver development program since 2002. He was also their main test-driver in 2006. This is similar to Alonso who signed with Alonso in 2000, and became their test driver in 2002 before becoming a fully fledged race driver in 2003.
Kovalainen believes that because he already has experience in the team and has driven the car already, he should be able to win a race in his first year. “I don’t consider myself as a complete rookie any more,” he explained. “I did 25,000km testing this year. I think I know the car well enough. “Race weekends are always different, and that is something I need to see.
“I want to win a race. That’s why I am doing this. But that is not the focus at the moment. I think if everything goes well, if we have a competitive car, that’s got to be the target. It will come if everything is going normally and if we are preparing well, but we are focusing on the first race and trying to finish it.”