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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 09:01 GMT
Kovalainen - I can match Alonso
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Renault F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen
Kovalainen says he does not feel like an F1 rookie
New Renault driver Heikki Kovalainen says he can ultimately be as successful as his predecessor Fernando Alonso.

Renault have chosen the novice Finn as a replacement for Alonso, who joined the team in 2003 and has left for McLaren as a double world champion.

Kovalainen, 25, said: "There will be a lot of pressure, but mainly because I want to get the results, not because I am filling someone else's shoes.

"I am confident that we can repeat the success the team had with Fernando."

Kovalainen will be racing in F1 for the first time but says he is not worried about the high expectations that will come from racing for the world champions.

"I don't feel I have any more pressure than I would have had replacing someone who hadn't won two championships," said the Finn, who will write a column for this website throughout 2007.

Heikki is replacing a driver who essentially didn't make a mistake last year

Pat Symonds
Renault engineering director
"There is always pressure in F1. Even this year when I was testing [for Renault] I always put pressure on myself to do good times and be consistent and to always squeeze everything out of myself and the car.

"That will be the case next year."

Renault engineering director Pat Symonds believes Kovalainen is good enough to make his mark straight away.

"I think he's going to be quick and make mistakes, and that's a pretty good thing for a rookie driver," Symonds said.

"Being slow and not making mistakes isn't terribly exciting while being slow and making mistakes is a disaster. But being quick and making the odd mistake along the way is pretty acceptable."

Symonds is also confident that Kovalainen will not buckle under the huge weight of expectation as Alonso's replacement.

"Heikki is replacing a driver who essentially didn't make a mistake last season, who in races made one mistake in two years - and that's a hard act to follow for a new guy," said Symonds.

"To be honest, it would be astounding if he was able to equal it."

Heikki Kovalainen and Fernando Alonso
Kovalainen has been chosen to replace double champion Alonso
Kovalainen has been in Renault's driver development programme since 2002 and was their full-time test driver in 2006.

It is a similar route to Alonso, who was signed by Renault in 2000, raced for Minardi in 2001, and was Renault's test driver in 2002 before joining the team for 2003, during which he took his maiden Grand Prix victory in Hungary.

The Spaniard went on to win the drivers' title in 2005 and 2006.

Kovalainen thinks his experience with the team and car will mean he should be able to win races in his first year, a feat which drivers usually find difficult.

606: DEBATE
MI

"I don't consider myself as a complete rookie any more," Kovalainen said. "I did 25,000km testing this year. I think I know the car well enough.

"Race weekends are always different, and that is something I need to see.

"I want to win a race. That's why I am doing this. But that is not the focus at the moment.

"I think if everything goes well, if we have a competitive car, that's got to be the target.

"It will come if everything is going normally and if we are preparing well, but we are focusing on the first race and trying to finish it."

SEE ALSO
Heikki Kovalainen column
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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