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Heikki Kovalainen column

Formula One
by Andrew Benson (U1647787) 24 January 2007
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New Renault Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen writes his second column for the BBC Sport website on the day of the launch of the team's new car.

You can read the article and his answers to some of your questions here.

Please let us know your thoughts, and send in any further questions you may have for Heikki. We will make a selection of the best and Heikki will answer them in his next column.

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posted Jan 24, 2007

Question for Heikki

Although i am sure you would be grateful with any grandprix win, if you could pick a circuit to get your first formula one win where would it be and why?

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posted Jan 24, 2007

i would just like to thank Heikki for spending the time to inform the fans of the progress and developments that Renault are making. I wish him all the best for the 2007 season and hope that he gets his maiden win as soon as posible.

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posted Jan 24, 2007

Question for Heikki

How did you get into racing and what are your reccomendations for other people who want to start?

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posted Jan 25, 2007

Hey Heikki, thanks for answering my question!

Anyway, my second question is:

Finland is famous for producing many top sportsmen in many different sports, such as Rallying (Tommi Makkinen), Formula One (Yourself, of course ;-)), Football (Sami Hyypia) and Ice Hockey (Teemu Selänne).

But if you weren't a racing driver (For some reason or another) then what sport would you be in?

Once again, thanks for answering my first question.

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posted Jan 25, 2007

Hi Heikki,

I appreciate you for taking the time to take us all a bit closer to the world of F1 – IMO the sport has underutilized the possibilities of the net thus far and you are helping to alleviate that on your part here. The insight on your and your team’s priorities in preparation for the season and the first race in Albert Park (which, looking at last year’s can easily shape up to be a tricky one for all) was very welcome. I’m also certain the BBC service is a good choice of venue to do this since it’s very accessible.

Over 2006, you got publicity mostly as a hard working development driver, propably racking up more miles by yourself than some smaller teams did in total. The effort was handsomely repaid with sharing in the WCC trophy with all of your team and an F1 race driver position in a winning outfit, but on the other hand that undertaking meant a whole season pretty much devoid of meaningful racing for you. Looking into the future what, beyond those obvious effects, would you say is the most positive aspect and what is the most negative aspect of your experience in 2006 and the route you took to F1?

And then, on a forward looking, testing related subject still: As Friday testing was liberated (outside the single engine rule etc.) you will likely get the hang of even unfamiliar tracks soon enough to gain an equal enough footing with the more experienced F1 race drivers. Some teams, though, boast of having very sophisticated simulators for their drivers to prepare for the races during the off season. Do you have systems like these at your disposal at ING Renault F1, or do you think that those are/ would be of any benefit for you and Giancarlo in the current situation?

Finally, I’ve noticed that some, at least in francophone countries have taken to speaking and writing of you as “Kovy” (admittedly, even I’ve used that nickname of you a couple of times on BBC messageboards) ... I just wondered if that’s OK by you? Like, does anyone actually adress you as “Kovy” personally at Viry Châtillon or elsewhere, or is it just “Heikki”? :) And what does Flavio call you?

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posted Jan 28, 2007

Hm, after mulling

things over for a couple of days I have to say there are still tons of questions I could ask. Way more than it is polight or practical to ask, so I thought I’d add just a couple more and make it subject specific. In this case it is about tyres, a theme that has been in the headlines quite a lot – surely making up for at least some of Bridgestone’s investment.

The thing is, it’s been a bit of a case of mixed messages from what I’ve been reading from the teams in general and ING Renault has been no exception in this regard. For instance, on the team’s website Bob Bell has stated that the whole aerodynamic packaging of the chassis had to be rethought because of the tyres’ different geometry and that the design also leaves room to make adjustments in the weight distribution. There’s also a reference to a “steep learning curve”.

But then again, he goes on to say that the changes, roughly summed up above, did not require a profound rethink ... so, after having tested R26 extensively and now R27, how does the tyre change appear to a driver? A big deal or much ado about nothing? I kinda got the impression that since the technical department knows there’s not much they can do about the tyres, they come as they do.

Thus, is the “profound rethink” part of the process in fact left in large part to the drivers compensating with their (or in this case I guess more aptly, your) adaptability and talent? Raw empirical work on the track with the test team, who then adjust things like the weight distribution accordingly, the designers “tightening up” the plans during the season as the best solutions are found?

I also noted that if the weight distribution is to move anywhere, it’s forward, in ING Renault’s case I guess towards a more “neutral” balance. The team has been well known for its ability to get its cars off the line like no other during the past couple of seasons, does this mean that your starts are going to be less aggressive in the future? That could also affect quali strategy and mix up the pack even more.

Also, the last time grip was reduced considerably (with the introduction of grooved tyres) many fans on the BBC message groups seemed to agree that it reduced the chances to overtake and made the sport that much more boring. Do you see that could be a threat, as the larger aerodynamical etc. regulatory framework hasn’t changed that much from last season?

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