Heikki Kovalainen managed to get his first outing in the newly launched McLaren this week after the first test of the season in Portugal was rained out last month. Speaking to the team’s official website after some successful dry running, the Finn gave his thoughts on the new car, KERS and whether or not he thinks he will be fighting for wins this season.
What are your first thoughts after finally driving MP4-24 in the dry? We’ve had a good two days. Obviously, the first day it looked like it was going to rain again so I thought I’d never escape the rain! But even then we managed to do a couple of runs in the dry in the afternoon and got a bit of running in the wet, which can be useful. On the second day, it’s been perfect weather and we did over 100 laps so it’s been a good start with the new car. We’ve been mainly working on the reliability side of things and we seem quite satisfied that everything seems to be working well.
First impressions of the car: grip, balance etc? For me, it’s reasonably well-balanced. Obviously, lower grip and with the tires, you have to take care and really look after them – especially here at Jerez, which is always a killer on the rear tires. So we need to look after them and I think I need to work on my driving style a little bit, to be more cautious in various places. Otherwise, the car feels like an evolution of last year’s car – the controls, the seating position and driver comfort is very similar to what I had last year. It’s very much like driving last year’s car with Monza low-downforce settings!
You did some serious running with KERS – is it difficult to adapt? I don’t think it’s very difficult to adapt to these new things. It’s just a few more things to do in the cockpit – press the button a few times every lap. I felt I very quickly became used to it and it quickly becomes a routine, using the KERS and the adjustable front wing. And there are places where you want to press it and places where you want to back off some front wing: if you feel you need a change during a long run, you can adjust it yourself. I feel I’m already on top of that and controlling it pretty well. And KERS has been running pretty well – it’s been running at full-power without any errors so that’s quite encouraging.
Do you have confidence that this car will allow you to fight for wins during the season? It’s difficult to say at the moment how good it will be. But I have all the confidence in the team that they will be able to produce another competitive car. My feeling at the moment is that I have a better feeling this year than I did last year at the same time and I know we have a lot of upgrades coming – the team has always been able to improve the package really well throughout the season so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have another competitive year but it’s difficult to make any further predictions than that.
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