The news yesterday were full of Heikki Kovalainen’s remarks in the interview to Motorsport Aktuell. I wonder how many people actually have read the interview. Even the Motorpsort Aktuell website only talks about that interview, that probably is for its printed version. But let’s assume that excerpts from the interview were accurate.
Here is what Heikki Kovalainen is said to have said:
“Only once was I lighter than Lewis and that was at Silverstone, where I was on the pole. In all the other qualifyings I was fuelled more heavily. I was often the heaviest guy in the top six or seven. Obviously this has an effect also in the race.
“The team knew exactly what was taking place. If I had been at the front more often, then I would have won more frequently. So that’s something we have to look at for the coming year.”
So, is this an excuse for his lacklustre 2008 performances or a simple explanation of the facts ?
Thinking back about all the comments from Kovalainen and about Kovalainen (by McLaren) it more and more looks to me that for both the team and the driver this was from the very beginning the adjusting season. Kovalainen never really complained about his role (except perhaps those signs of some dissent following the German Grand Prix). I also can’t recall the team complaining about Kovalainen too much.
Looks like both sides were happy with the way things went in 2008. McLaren could give full support to Hamilton in his title bid, Kovalainen was under no real pressure to perform, although some more points from him would have come handy for the contructors championship.
While Heikki Kovalainen was perhaps fine with his de facto number 2 status from the very beginning of the 2008 season it is rather obvious he does not expect the same situation to repeat next season. Will McLaren go back to their loudly advertised equal opportunities policy or will they prefer to keep the things the way that worked out so well for them in 2008 ?
This time year ago the hottest candidate for the vacant McLaren seat was Nico Rosberg. Only after it became clear that the young German will continue with Williams did McLaren confirm Heikki Kovalainen as their 2008 race driver. He was the obvious choice, but probably not the first choice.
Kovalainen’s contract has been extended for 2009 season only. It will not take too long for the contest for the 2010 McLaren race drive to kick off. No doubt the team will be watching the possible candidates (including Kovalainen) but I believe that the drivers will also watch how it works within the McLaren team next year. I can’t see a top driver with a championship ambitions moving deliberately to a team where he might never make it higher than number 2.
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