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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 07:10 GMT
Heikki Kovalainen column
Heikki  Kovalainen

By Heikki Kovalainen
Renault F1 driver

The season has ended and although there were some good points, I'm not really happy about it.

I finished seventh overall, with one of the highlights being my second place in the Japanese Grand Prix. But next year I need to be better. Better prepared both physically and mentally.

I should have enough experience next year to fight for good positions and now we must work hard to make sure it happens.

SEASON REVIEW

In neither of the last two races were we able to show the full potential of the Renault car.

We had the pace in dry and wet conditions, but in both races the qualifying simply was not good enough and that set us back.

Heikki Kovalainen
Kovalainen finished just outside the points in China

I don't think we quite nailed the set-up in the practice sessions. In both cases I made little mistakes that if you want to win the championship you shouldn't make.

Towards the end of the season, especially in the dry, to qualify for the top 10 wasn't easy. We haven't really done anything on our car since Nurburgring in July and that made it a little harder.

The other cars were probably improving while we weren't. We'd already taken the decision to focus on next year. But in any case, we should have had the pace.

I can't be happy about the start of the season. We need to do better next year, both my team and myself. Regardless of where I am next year, we need to start better.

Halfway through the year we got consistent results - around fifth, sixth, seventh in any conditions - so we can be quite happy about that. We had some really good races and strategies.

Next season I need to start better. We need to aim even higher.

You could say it was a good season and had Lewis Hamilton not been there it would have looked much better because I would have finished as top rookie!

Finishing second in Fuji was obviously my best race, but we also did well in Turkey, Hungary and Spa where I made the best possible use of the car without making any mistakes.

But my expectations were a lot higher. We expected to have a strong, competitive car and so clearly it was a disappointing season compared to that. I think we expected more from the races which is why it doesn't feel as successful as it possibly was.

Next season I need to start better. I need to ensure that when an opportunity or possibility comes around I must take it straight away. We have to aim even higher.

LESSONS LEARNED

I think I got used to an easy start in my Formula One career. I was testing in a very competitive car last year. If we struggled we never really had to think deeply about the car or the set-up. We knew the car had the pace.

At the beginning of this season, if it didn't go well after Friday practice, I thought "Ah well, it will be all right tomorrow" - but it didn't happen that way.

Flavio Briatore and Heikki Kovalainen
Briatore and Kovalainen often discussed the car's performance

I had a few long chats with my engineers and with Renault boss Flavio Briatore and we thought this is not working like it should. We concluded I needed to work with the engineers more and understand the car better.

And that's what I've been learning this year about the car and the set-up. I think I've got the speed, I've always had the speed to win the championship, but when it comes to the smaller details I'm better now than I was at the start.

WILL RENAULT BE BETTER IN 2008?

We've not been as competitive as I hoped this year. We were a bit late building and designing our car this year because last year went down to the wire.

We also had problems with the wind tunnel, although they have been sorted out, and we also understand a lot more about the tyres after a first season using them.

We've come through the worst time, a transitional period.

There's never been a doubt about anyone in the team. Renault's director of engineering Pat Symonds and our chief race engineer, Alan Permane, are excellent, as are all the engineers and designers.

They are all capable of building a strong car and having a good season. Plus we have a strong, reliable engine.

MY FUTURE

I know where we are and I will be the first to know when we make that decision but it hasn't been made yet. I have a contract until the end of the year and when testing resumes I will drive for Renault in Barcelona.

I am at Renault, I am happy with the team and I think next year they can do a very good job, but we will see what is the best possible option for me.

Apart from that there's nothing new to report. There are different options and possibilities - very interesting ones - and I just need to take a bit of time and see what is the best option.

The next eight months are very important for my career. Wherever I go or whether I stay, I want to compete and put in the hard work with that team to win the championship.

Equal status with my team-mate is also important. I don't want to turn up in Australia if I know I can't win or fight for the championship.

Heikki Kovalainen
Kovalainen will test for Renault before the new season

It's a good situation that, after a bit of an early struggle, I had some good results and performances and now there are teams interested.

I don't have any concerns about going up against Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen. If ever I want to win the championship, I can't be afraid of anyone and I need to beat them all. Given the right package I think I could fight for it.

They're not easy to beat - they're all really good drivers - but I'm not afraid of anyone. I never thought about anyone that I can't beat. When that day arrives, it's better to do something else.

THIS YEAR'S TITLE

It's fair to say that in the last few races, Kimi was the strongest. All of them had a bad race at some point, everyone made a few errors, but I don't think you can put it down to luck. Kimi really was the strongest driver throughout the year.

When he got comfortable with his car - the tyres, the set-up and the team - he really was the guy to beat. He scored the most points in the last six or seven races. He is absolutely the right champion.

I guess it needs to be sorted out but I hope the Championship result stands

Lewis had a very good season and Fernando and Felipe Massa were strong, but when it came down to the last few races, Kimi never gave up.

I know him and I think he's always thought that somehow he was going to do it. The right guy won it.

I really hope the appeal over the Brazilian Grand Prix doesn't change anything. I guess it needs to be sorted out but I hope the championship result stands.

Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen deserves to win the title, says Kovalainen

It's never good for the sport - any of the things that have happened this year have not been good - but somewhere you have to draw the line and that's why you have people who deal with this.

At the end of the day, I hope nothing happens and we can move on without any scandals. As a Finn, I hope Kimi can keep it.

He is a really nice guy. He is very honest and fair and never gets involved in things that aren't his business.

People in F1 like him because what you see is what you get. He's never been the chattiest guy in the world but that's how he is.

He's got a really good sense of humour. I get on very well with him and he can be very funny. Whatever people say about him, he's a very smart guy.

I see things said about him and they make me smile, but he never gets involved in a war of words or anything.

Sometimes, he says things in a clever way and it shows his intelligence.

NEW YORK MARATHON

I'm running in the New York marathon on Sunday and I'm looking forward to it. I've done quite a lot of training over the last two months.

Whether that's enough I don't know but I'm not nervous about it.

I've done distances of up to 30km and felt I could have gone another 12km but it depends on the day.

I'll try to do as well as I can but as long as I can finish - that's the main thing!

Mentally, a Grand Prix is much tougher but then I don't think you're ever in as much pain at the end of a race as you are in a marathon.

When I'm running, my brain can be anywhere. I'm not worried about the race or who is leading. But you start to feel the physical pain and the struggle starts there.

606: DEBATE

Under four hours would be a good time. When I first started doing this, I targeted three and a half hours, maybe 3:20. But after doing some running that's probably too fast.

If I feel good, three and a half could be possible but if the struggle starts early on it will be difficult to finish, so under four hours is my target time.

I am flying out on Thursday and going to a Police concert on Friday.

I don't need a holiday or the sun. For me, the best holiday would be to go back to Finland, even if it's snowing, and just be at home for a while.

Heikki Kovalainen was talking to Andrew Benson



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