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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Heikki Kovalainen column
Heikki Kovalainen
By Heikki Kovalainen
Renault F1 driver

For this edition of his column Heikki kept a diary of his week between the Grands Prix in Canada and the United States.

Here the Renault driver takes you through each day between the back-to-back races in north America.


My fourth place in Montreal is my best result so far and after a difficult weekend, it was the perfect way to wrap up in Canada.

On Sunday night we had a post-race debrief, which took about an hour-and-a-half. Then the team packed up to travel to Indianapolis but the drivers were given a few days off.

I had travelled from Europe with Fernando Alonso. He had a private plane and there was plenty of room so we flew together.

He is a really great guy, we're friends and get on well. He wasn't going anywhere until Wednesday so that meant I stayed in Montreal too.


Monday was a complete day off, so I didn't do any training and, even though Fernando and Giancarlo Fisichella were staying in town, I was just hanging out with my physio Gabriele, my girlfriend Catherine and manager Mathieu.

I woke up early and we went to have lunch in the centre of Montreal, then we drove out of the city to a wild animal park.

The park is owned by DTM driver Bruno Spengler's father and there were wild pigs, wolves, coyotes, bisons and deer. You could feed them carrots to make them come really close to the car.

It was a good day and sunny too - as good as the weather gets in Montreal.


To be honest, I don't like these days off in between the back-to-back races especially when I'm not able to go back home.

I don't really like sightseeing or shopping and would much prefer to do something at home. What would I be doing at home? Not much, just chilling! But I feel happier with my own computer, games and things like that.

I went straight to the track on Wednesday - I wanted to know what I had done wrong in Canada to make sure it didn't happen again at Indy

So for me these are the hardest days of the journey. Today was another total rest day and we could have done some training today but we were a bit lazy.

Instead, we all went to a museum to see an exhibition about dead bodies - Body Worlds. It was really interesting to see how real muscles, veins and hearts work.

When I was younger, I broke my left leg in a karting accident and had a big metal plate put inside my bone, and part of the exhibition showed this - it was pretty fascinating for me to see that.


Today was a travelling day and so we left the hotel quite early, met Fernando - I don't know what he had been doing in Montreal - and flew to Indianapolis, arriving in the afternoon.

I went straight to the track to have a chat with my engineers. We're not expected to go on Wednesdays but I wanted to go through in detail what happened during the Canada race.

I crashed twice in Montreal and wanted to understand what I had done wrong, was I carrying too much speed into the corner, had I made a mistake?

We had to understand what happened to make sure it didn't happen again at Indy. We couldn't afford another weekend like that.

The team discovered I was trying to go into a corner too fast and that is why I had crashed during first practice.

I was pleased to get it off my mind, so on Thursday I could start my preparations for the US Grand Prix from scratch.


Once the race weekend kicks in, I don't have much free time to myself but Thursday is the easiest day because there is no driving.

Catherine didn't come to the track in Canada or Indianapolis because I prefer to go to work alone and talk to the engineers, and to be honest she doesn't have much to do there.

Heikki Kovalainen signs autographs for US fans
Heikki gets mobbed when he takes times to sign autographs in Indy

So that I have some idea what to expect from my first lap on Friday, I walked round the track with the race team - the engine, chassis, electronics engineers and race directors.

They have already prepared data on driving lines, speeds, and some simulations on what to expect from the car and gearbox and we go through all this on the walk.

I had not raced at Indy before and when the track is new for me, I walk round with Giancarlo and listen to his comments.

He talks about his memories from previous races, ' braking was difficult here, there is a bump on the circuit', things like that. It really helps.

There is also some official media work to do and this time I took part in the FIA press conference.


Friday is the hardest day of the race weekend - along with Sunday of course - and I got up at 7am, left the hotel by 8 and the team had our first meeting at 9.

The reason Friday is hard is because of the amount of laps you do during the two practice sessions - and I did 62 today.

Overall it was a very good day for us, and I was happy with my own performance as I was a little bit faster than Giancarlo and was pleased with the car straightaway.

After practice, it was off to another team meeting with the engineers and then the full drivers' meeting in the evening - and that you miss at your peril. If you skip it, you get a big fine, so that's the way Fridays end.


Up at 7am and out of the hotel by 8am for another meeting before final practice and qualifying.

In between practice three and qualifying, I normally have some media commitments, so I said hello to the team's guests and signed some autographs. I do this on Saturdays and then it's Giancarlo's turn on Sunday.


After that, I ate a light lunch and prepared for qualifying. The hardest part of the session are the two runs during the second period, when all the cars are low on fuel and the drivers are giving it their maximum effort to go as fast as possible.

It's so frantic that you can fail to make the top 10 by just half a tenth of a second - and that has happened to me five times this season.

The third period of qualifying, when the last grid positions are settled, is all about strategy, and getting it right.

I was happy to qualify in sixth place, I think it was the maximum we could have achieved. I was also carrying 10 kilos more fuel than the others so the outlook for Sunday was promising.


Another early start, with breakfast at 8am and then a heavier pasta meal for lunch about 1030.

Between then and the race, I take on plenty of sports drinks but, other than that, I don't have any special routines that I follow. I do whatever I feel is right and talk to my engineers.

We have a race briefing around 1045 where we talk about our strategy, when we will stop, the key parts of the race - and then we get ready to race.

Renault's Heikki Kovalainen holds off Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen
Heikki stole the march on Raikkonen in the early stages at Indy

I managed to get past Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen on my first stint and then led the race for five laps. I didn't even realise I was leading until one lap before my pit-stop and, it may be a landmark, but honestly, it doesn't make a difference.

I was just pushing to find more time and trying to get past the cars that I was lapping. The traffic meant that I dropped about one-and-a-half seconds and when I came into the pits, I knew that I had lost some time.

When I fed back out, I was behind Kimi and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld again. I knew it was going to be close with them!

Even without Nick's retirement in the final laps, I should have finished ahead of him but the gap between Kimi and I could have been smaller.

Realistically, I think Kimi would have got past me at the second stop anyway, but the gap should have been more like 15 seconds, not 25.

In terms of points, I think we got the maximum out of the package we have at the moment.

It has been a busy week and a significant one too; Montreal was my best result but not my best race - and there is a difference. I would rate Indy as my best race and that means there is plenty to look forward to when we race again at Magny-Cours.

Readers wanting to put questions to Heikki can ask them on our 606 pages via the link in the text. Alternatively, if you have questions for the ING Renault F1 Team or Heikki himself, you can send them to Renault for inclusion in their podcast on

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