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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 09:01 GMT
Heikki Kovalainen column

Heikki Kovalainen

By Heikki Kovalainen
Renault F1 driver

Hello, I'm Heikki Kovalainen and I'm going to be driving for the Renault Formula One team in the 2007 world championship.

I'm also going to be writing about my experiences on the BBC Sport website. I'll be sharing my news, thoughts and feelings with you throughout the year. I'm very excited.

I am confident that we can repeat the success we have had with Fernando

Some of you probably don't know very much about me.

It will be my first year in F1, after spending the last four years in Renault's driver development programme, and I am filling the seat that was occupied by Fernando Alonso, the world champion.

I like Fernando's driving style and his way of handling and managing the race impressed me. That's something that would be good to follow.

I am quite a relaxed person out of the car, but in the car I am aggressive, I never give up, I fight to the end and I try 100% all the time.

I come from Suomussalmi in the north of Finland, quite close to the border with Lapland.

Heikki Kovalainen in his Renault car
Kovalainen did 25,000km in tests for Renault this year

It's a little bit unusual that a racing driver comes from there. Normally the racing drivers we have in Finland come from Helsinki or somewhere in the south. Where I live, there are more skiers or ice hockey players or winter sports people.

I was interested in other sports when I was growing up. I still am - but I just liked going racing. I had the opportunities and that's how it went.

When I started go-karting at the age of six, I always dreamt of becoming a Formula One driver.

So in my opinion, it doesn't matter if you come from Sao Paulo, Lapland or China. If you work hard enough and never give up, you can achieve your goals.

ON REPLACING ALONSO

People ask me how I feel about replacing a double world champion in the team that has won the title for the last two years, but I don't feel I have any more pressure than I would have had replacing someone else.

There is always pressure in F1. I have always had pressure and the main thing is I never felt it was affecting my racing.

Even when I was testing I always put pressure on myself to do good times and to be consistent and to always squeeze everything out the car and myself. That will be the case next year, too.

There will be a lot of pressure, but mainly because I want the results, not because I am filling someone else's shoes.

HOPES AND AIMS FOR 2007

If we stay calm, I am confident that we can repeat the success we have had with Fernando. That's what we're targeting.

I don't consider myself as a complete rookie. I did 25,000km of testing this year, but race weekends are always different.

I want to win a race and, if everything goes well and we have a competitive car, that's got to be the target.

KOVALAINEN BIOGRAPHY
Born: Suomussalmi, Finland, 19/10/81
Started racing: 1987
2000: Elf Masters karting champion
2001: Formula Renault UK, fourth overall, two wins
2002: Joins Renault driver development programme; five wins in British Formula Three
2004: Nissan World Series champion
2005: GP2 runner-up
2006: Renault F1 test and reserve driver

If my results are not somewhere near the top, I am not going to be happy. Neither are the team. But the main thing is to start the season well.

I don't think I will have to wait until the end of the year to win a race. I hope I can win the first race in Melbourne if everything goes well.

But the target is to score points in my first race and see how we get on from there.

Who knows, if everything goes well and we have good preparation and no set-backs, I am sure the good results can come early in the season.

I'm confident that I can do well. I think my times were competitive compared to Fernando and my 2007 team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella in testing last year, and I always thought I could match them.

WHY RENAULT CHOSE ME

I don't know exactly why Renault chose me, but I am sure they saw that the speed is good enough. I never thought I would be too slow.

Also, I have always been very consistent. I haven't made a lot of mistakes and I have always managed to finish in the points even in bad races.

I knew if I did a good enough job in testing, Renault couldn't ignore me

I was always very keen and willing to improve. I wanted to get fitter and take it seriously.

And I have gambled many things. I have always dedicated my life 100% to Renault and to become an F1 driver and they like the commitment from my side.

The first time I really thought about getting the drive was when Fernando signed for McLaren in November 2005. It was as early as that.

I knew Renault wanted me to race, but at that time they obviously didn't know how I would get on in the car.

But I knew that if I did a good enough job in testing, did good lap times, made no big mistakes, stayed consistent and, you know, kept improving, I had the best opportunity to get the seat.

Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella
Fisichella (right) will be Kovalainen's team-mate at Renault in 2007

I knew Renault wanted a big name and if they had been able to get, for example, Kimi Raikkonen, I'm sure they would have taken him instead of me.

I understand that totally. It's less of a risk for a big team if they have a driver who is a proven winner.

But my managers and Renault team boss Flavio Briatore always said they would find me a good race seat if I kept doing a good job.

I knew my lap times were competitive, so they couldn't ignore me. I was always confident I would be in F1 in 2007.

  • Heikki Kovalainen will be writing a series of columns for the BBC Sport website throughout 2007


    SEE ALSO
    Kovalainen - I can match Alonso
    20 Dec 06 |  Formula One
    Briatore relishes post-Alonso era
    15 Nov 06 |  Formula One
    Fisichella talks up title chances
    06 Nov 06 |  Formula One
    Alonso in class apart says Webber
    04 Nov 06 |  Formula One
    Kovalainen to take Alonso's drive
    06 Sep 06 |  Formula One


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