x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Heikki Kovalainen thrilled to be back in 'home race'

The Finn speaks to Gary Meenaghan about his 'home race', his future and the Olympic Games.

Heikki Kovalainen won the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2008. Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP
Heikki Kovalainen won the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2008. Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP

In 2008, the Finn enjoyed his first and only win at the Hungaroring, while with McLaren-Mercedes. Now, having impressed with Caterham, he is being linked with bigger budget teams once more. He speaks to Gary Meenaghan about his "home race", his future and the Olympic Games.

Your compatriot Mika Hakkinen used to treat the Hungarian Grand Prix as a home race. Do you feel the same?

I guess so, yeah. A lot of Finnish fans come here, so in that way it is perhaps a warmer feeling through the weekend than some of the races.

We are at the midway point of the season, how do you rate your performance so far?

Overall it's positive. Since the beginning, we have improved a lot. We had some really good races in Monaco, Montreal and Valencia, but since we fitted the update, we have not yet felt the benefits. We need a bit more time.

What is the target for the rest of the season?

Challenging the group ahead of us. We need to regularly fight with Toro Rosso at every circuit. If we can do that, it would be very successful end of the season.

What are your plans for the summer break? Are you looking forward to resting?

Actually, I'm not tired at all. I could carry on racing, but for the rest of the team, it's necessary everyone gets a break and spends time with family. We drivers get it relatively easy.

You told me in November that you didn't want the winter break either. Don't you ever get tired?

I needed a break at the end of 2009, but not since then. I have quite a good balance now. Obviously it's good and healthy to have time off, but it's not that I really need it. I'll just go see family in Finland, do a bit of fitness and watch the Olympics.

A lot of drivers have said they have little interest in the Olympics. Are the Games something you will actively follow?

Absolutely. I genuinely follow a lot of athletics. It will be interesting to see. Obviously, it is difficult for Finland to score medals, but the javelin guys are world class, we have a runner with potential and our swimmers are good, so there are a few athletes who could do well.

You have been linked with other teams and there is a lot of talk about your future. What can you say at this point?

It is that time of the season, so this is normal. The fact is I have not spoken to my team yet. At some point we will sit down, but the focus just now is making this team better.

The latest rumour has you replacing Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.

McLaren? Really? I have not spoken to McLaren, but the fact is we have not spoken seriously to anyone.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE