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DATE News (chronologically)
12/16/07
f1
Kovalainen refuses to play second fiddle to Hamilton


Kovalainen is delusional if he thinks he will get equal treatment to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren

Heikki Kovalainen, the new McLaren Mercedes teammate of Lewis Hamilton, said this weekend that he is convinced the troubled Woking-based team can now move on after one of the worst years in their history, dominated by feuding drivers and allegations of cheating.

Heikki Kovalainen, the new McLaren Mercedes teammate of Lewis Hamilton, speaking on the eve of the Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium yesterday, the Finn said that McLaren are ready to turn over a new leaf. “Before I signed the contract, I asked about the issue [the McLaren/ Ferrari “Spygate” scandal] and all I know is that it is not going to affect our performance next year,” Kovalainen said.

“I haven’t been involved in that case . . . but for me, and for McLaren as well, the intention is to make everything clear as soon as possible. We want to leave everything behind, make sure everyone is happy about the situation and move on.”

Kovalainen, who made his debut at Renault this year, starting poorly but improving as the season progressed, faces an unenviable task as Hamilton’s teammate. Ringing in his ears will be recent comments by Martin Whitmarsh, the embattled chief operating officer at McLaren, who made it clear that the team’s principal target next year will be to make Hamilton world champion. “Lewis is already McLaren’s main focus,” Whitmarsh said.

Thus Kovalainen may have to accept a role as Hamilton’s support act, even though he has just as much experience in Formula One as the Briton. This will not be easy for an ambitious driver who made clear as recently as last month, while he was still at Renault, that he wants to fight for the World Championship himself.

“I want to be in a competitive car to be able to fight for victories and the championship, wherever that is,” Kovalainen said. “It does not matter as long as it is competitive and I have equal status with my teammate. I am not willing to support anyone from the beginning of the season, everyone knows this.

“It is OK if the other driver is stronger at the end of the season and if I need to help, then it is fine.

“But I need to be able to start the season fair and square and with equal treatment and that is very important to me.”

No one is expecting the same fireworks between Hamilton and Kovalainen as characterized the traumatic breakdown in relations between Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. However, the rumors on the Formula One grapevine are that Hamilton was not entirely delighted when Kovalainen got the job ahead of Pedro De La Rosa, the McLaren test driver. TimesOnline

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