Heikki Kovalainen is not letting the disappointment of Silverstone get to him and is determined to turn things around during the crucial second half of the season.
After a troublesome start to the season marred by several technical problems and incidents, it was all looking so good for Kovalainen on the Saturday before the British Grand Prix.
The Finn was simply untouchable in qualifying and stormed to his first career pole position by a colossal margin of over half a second. But treacherous conditions in the race saw him struggle to get the most out of his tyres, and he was forced to yield to team-mate Lewis Hamilton, dropping to fifth at the chequered flag.
The damage though, has been done. Kovalainen has proved his worth behind the wheel of his MP4-23 and has shown he is more than a match for team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the dry. Key will be remaining positive and not slipping into the function of a support role, as David Coulthard did for Mika Hakkinen, however big the points deficit to Lewis Hamilton may be.
Indeed, despite the inevitable disappointment of Silverstone, Kovalainen was, on the whole, buoyed by his underlying pace and is looking to carry that into the remaining nine races.
“For sure, in the dry at Silverstone I couldn’t believe how good the car felt and just how much I could keep pushing it,” he reflected. “It felt better than ever. But the race showed I can still do more to improve – both in terms of my driving style and the way the team works with me. I know I have the speed, I just need to work harder to apply it across the whole race weekend.”
Still in only his first season for McLaren, unlike Lewis Hamilton who has enjoyed long-term support from the Woking squad, Kovalainen has impressed his employers and the feeling is that it is only a matter of time before he climbs onto the top step of the podium.
“We all feel that Heikki’s turn will come,” McLaren Racing’s Managing Director Jonathan Neale told Forumula1.com.
“Looking at the way Heikki had performed on the Friday and the Saturday in the dry at Silverstone, I think he was untouchable. He was really quick and I’m looking forward to seeing that converted to victory I have to say. He’s such a quick driver.”
The Woking squad are under no allusions however that key to seeing Kovalainen clinch his maiden win, will be eradicating, and minimising the likelihood of, some of the problems and incidents that have so far hampered him.
“While we remain encouraged by the pace we’ve recently shown and the victories we’ve achieved, there’s a feeling that we could still be doing more to consistently score strongly,” admits McLaren’s CEO Martin Whitmarsh.
“Several opportunities for victory, most notably in Istanbul and Montreal, have slipped through our fingers; we’ve suffered a few penalties – which we took squarely on the chin – and, through no fault of his own, Heikki has finished out of the points on several occasions, either due to us being unable to provide him with a suitable car or through circumstances that were largely beyond his control.”
“So as we head into the second half of the season, our primary objective must be to work harder to iron out these imperfections, to provide our drivers with race-winning machinery at every opportunity and to sharpen our focus on the world titles – both of which are still achievable for us.”