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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2007, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Heikki Kovalainen column
Heikki Kovalainen column
By Heikki Kovalainen
Renault F1 driver

The British Grand Prix was the halfway point of the season, so this is a good time to sum up how things have gone for me in my debut year in Formula One.

It has not been the year we were expecting at Renault, but we have made a clear improvement.

The problems we had at the beginning of the season were two-fold - the car was a bit more difficult to drive than I was used to and I was not working as well as I could.

Being a Formula One driver is not just about getting in the car and driving it, you have to work really hard out of it, too.

I now realise I needed to spend a bit more time understanding the car before pushing it to its limits, especially in those races when I missed some practice time because of mechanical problems.

I was over-driving to try to compensate for the car's lack of speed - trying to go through the corners faster than the car actually can go

I also needed to spend more time with the engineers and looking at what my team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella was doing in practice, understanding what changes he made to his set-up and why.

It is difficult to find the right balance between pushing hard enough and not enough.

There were a few times I stepped over the limit and had an accident or made some mistakes.

Last year, the car was so competitive that we could just turn up for testing or a race and there was little to do. But this year we've had a lot of problems to solve.

At the start of the season, the car was behaving differently from lap to lap.

It's difficult for the driver if the car works on one lap and then you push a bit harder and suddenly the front or the rear of the car is not there anymore.

Heikki Kovalainen's Renault leads the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen during the US Grand Prix
Kovalainen's best race was the US Grand Prix, when he was fifth

I was over-driving to try to compensate for the car's lack of speed, trying to go through the corners faster than the car can actually go.

But I wouldn't want to blame the car for everything because there were some things I could have done better, too.

Now, though, I think the major problems are behind us.

I've worked more with the engineers in the last few races to really understand the problems we are having and what we can do to make sure the car is better for me.

That way, I can be totally happy and 100% confident with everything when I go into qualifying, for example.

The team have improved the car's aerodynamic balance and it is much easier to predict how it will behave now.

It is more consistent from lap to lap. The grip is there on the first lap with new tyres and it degrades in a normal way. It's much easier.

Indianapolis was my best race so far - I was fighting with the guys at the top

It all started to come together at a test in Barcelona in May when we improved the way I was driving and the way the car was set up.

The team gave me some feedback on what I was doing and what I needed to work on.

All these things combined got me back on the right track. I've tried to keep it that way since then.

Indianapolis was my best race so far. I was fighting with the guys at the top. I kept Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari behind me for the whole first stint and then fought with Nick Heidfeld's BMW all the way through the race.

He broke down at the end and I finished fifth, the first guy after the McLarens and Ferraris.

Even through the difficult times this year I always felt the team were 100% behind me and I always felt confident in myself.

I never felt there was a question mark about my speed. I was always confident in my ability. Every year I have been racing I have always believed I could match my team-mate - and it is the same this year.

Heikki Kovalainen at Silverstone
The clouds are now beginning to clear from Renault's year

I don't feel I need to beat Fisi to show the team how good I am. I think the team know already what I can do.

I certainly don't feel any extra pressure to beat Fisi to keep my drive.

Of course, it's always nice to be in front of your team-mate, but to be honest I didn't take much enjoyment from finishing ahead of him at Silverstone.

We don't want to finish in seventh and eighth behind the Ferraris, McLarens and BMWs - we were world champions last year.

But we hope we can beat BMW by the end of the year. We are on the right track and we can do better for the rest of the season.

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