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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Heikki Kovalainen column
Heikki Kovalainen
By Heikki Kovalainen
Renault F1 driver

When I looked out of the window on Sunday morning and saw the rain coming down, I did not feel very confident about the Japanese Grand Prix.

I was hoping for dry conditions because that is what we set up the car for. At that stage, I certainly did not expect to finish second.

But when I started to drive I could feel the car was working well with the extreme wet tyres and I was able to keep up with the other drivers fine.

Then I knew I had a chance and started to believe I could get on the podium.

Heikki Kovalainen enjoys the wet conditions at Fuji Speedway
Kovalainen enjoyed the wet conditions at Fuji Speedway

I had both Ferraris behind me about 10 laps from the end so I knew that would be tricky. I could not keep up with Lewis and Felipe Massa and then Kimi Raikkonen quickly started closing down the gap.

I just tried to keep my own line - anything other than the racing line was too wet - to force Kimi to go on the wet line and make it more difficult to overtake me.

I knew he would do everything he could during the last lap to go past me and his car is faster than mine, so I had to take some big risks, I had to really pull my finger out at the end!

Second is obviously so much better than third, especially in those conditions, and you never want to get overtaken on the last lap.

I had a pretty close call. When Kimi overtook me and then I overtook him there was a lot of standing water but I had to go flat out and that was as close as I got to losing the car.

It was very, very wet - but I have always quite enjoyed racing in those conditions, it is a different exercise to what we normally go through and it creates good racing.

You can make a bigger difference in the wet if you are just a little bit braver than the guy in front or the guy behind but you still have to take controlled risks.

I will stay in Formula One next year and I hope that will be with Renault

It takes a lot of concentration and you are on the limit pretty much the whole time.

As soon as you get some gaps and the visibility gets better you need to make the most of it and try to do as many good laps as you can.

If you set up the car for the dry, you cannot make any set-up changes. You can change the tyre pressure but not the springs or anything like that.

Our downforce level was probably a little bit light and the car was a bit too fast on the straight line, especially in qualifying.

But I think the really wet conditions helped us and our relative pace to the others was much better than in qualifying - the set-up was not much of a handicap in those conditions.

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Don't get me wrong - it is slippery in those conditions but we have good tyres that can take a lot of water puddles and even some standing water, so the car is reasonably stable.

You do get bigger puddles where you get aquaplaning but you just try to go straight over them and you try not to do any cornering while you are on top of the water so you do not lose the car.

The biggest problem is visibility. You cannot see anything behind the other cars on a straight line.

I went to the left-hand side of the track and I just looked at the white line and I could not see anything else. You have to hope no-one has broken down in front of you or no-one slows down in the middle of the straight.

Kovalainen celebrates his second place at the Japanese GP
Kovalainen celebrates his second place at the Japanese GP

You can see the 200-metre board, the 150-metre board and then when you see the 100-metre board you hit the brakes! It is obviously quite risky but I've done it before and it is something the drivers are used to.

It is a strange feeling going blind on the straight and just watching the white line and that is the only reference point to keep the car going in the right direction.

It is tricky but also exciting. You have to follow the markers and hope no-one has stopped because if they have you are going to hit them and have a big accident.

Finishing second was a very important result to have for the future but I do not think my future was dependent on this result.

It has been looking good for me since the last six or seven races and I have not been too worried.

We had problems at the beginning of the season but I have managed to show people what I can do.

I will stay in Formula One next year and I hope that will be with Renault but the team is yet to make a decision.

Everyone is waiting to see what Fernando Alonso will do.

If any team could get him I am sure they would take him. He is a fantastic driver, a double world champion, but whether he wants to leave McLaren is another thing.

In any case, I feel I am in a strong position. I have improved throughout the year and I have a good future in F1.

I hope to be in a competitive team next season and hopefully I can fight more regularly for these kind of positions.

Heikki Kovalainen was talking to Andrew Benson



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