Q&A with Heikki Kovalainen

Speaking at the annual Mercedes-Benz Stars & Cars event in Stuttgart on Saturday, Heikki Kovalainen talked about 2009, his winter testing plans and how he hopes to watch some skiing in the next few months.

Heikki Kovalainen

How would you sum up your performances this year, and are you happy with them?
"I think the fact is I didn't make any big mistakes this year, but the season was quite difficult. We didn't finish all the races, there were also some things happening with me, and with my car, technical issues, that prevented us from a few results. But I think I'm much better prepared now for next year, and I'm looking forward to starting work for next year. Hopefully we can finish more races, without any problems, and get some better results."

What is the status for the drivers next year, does Lewis have number one status?
"I think it is quite clear that we have the same chances."

Has this year prepared you well enough to compete with Lewis next year?
"Yes, I think so. Even this year, the potential was there to get much better results. In terms of ultimate pace, there's never been a problem. If you look at some of the qualifying sessions this year, if you really measure the speed, it's quite positive. So I think we just need to keep working on the details. So to answer your question, yeah, I think I can do a much better season next year. We don't know at the moment how it is going to go, and what kind of package we are going to have, but thinking ahead, and suspecting that we're going to have a good car, then I will do the maximum to be in a position to have a better season."

Do you know when you will try KERS for the first time, and what are your expectations for it next year regarding improving the racing?
"I'm not exactly sure when I will run for the first time. I will probably do a couple days in before the end of the year, but I'm not sure of the program yet. For myself, the most interesting thing to try is the slick tires, if not this year then straightaway next year I'll be experiencing KERS. As for the racing, I hope it will improve, but to be honest, this year, the races have been quite exciting. Lots of overtaking going on. Again, there were a few difficult races, where it was difficult to pass anyone and they were quite boring races, but if we can have the same kind of excitement as we had this year, and maybe with these new regulations even improve it a little bit that would be great. But I have no idea how it's going to be. I guess the people who have been dealing with it know more about it, and they know what they are doing, so it should be better."

Will you have much time off this winter?
"I'm sure I will have a little holiday, but not much. I don't feel I need it. I will probably do a couple of days of the Jerez test in December, preparing for next year. It's better for everyone to have a bit of time off though, especially the people in the race team, they've had a hard year, but I'm looking forward to driving the car again. I'm in good shape, good physical and mental condition, not too tired, and if I had to drive tomorrow it would be no problem."

You've done marathons in the past. Do you plan anything like that for this year?
"I'm not planning to do any marathons, certainly not any events. Maybe I'll do a marathon on my own if I feel like it, but as soon as I joined the team this year my fitness program changed quite a lot. I haven't done endurance stuff, long distance training, much this year. I've been focusing on different things and I will carry on like that this winter. The focus will be on other things. Maybe I'll go and see some skiing races though, there are some good Finnish skiers around that would be good to watch."

Do you see any other teams competing for the title with Ferrari and McLaren next year?
"Yeah, we should never underestimate anyone. Especially Renault, they had a good finish to the year with Fernando. They clearly found something, they were strong in qualifying and the races in the last few rounds so I think we can expect them to improve as well. Also BMW, they always start the season very strong, if they can carry that pace on through the year they will be very strong. But even the other teams, you never know. Red Bull, Toro Rosso, they were occasionally very strong this year as well. The bottom line is we are going to keep working hard for next year, and what has happened this year, Lewis winning the championship, will push the whole team forwards. There is a good buzz going around the factory, so I think we're going to have a good package, but it's going to be a close fight." Source McLaren

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