''My feeling with the team is really positive''
It is a new working environment for Heikki Kovalainen this year, but so far he is adapting well to life at McLaren Mercedes alongside Lewis Hamilton and after another week of testing at the Jerez circuit, is very satisfied
with the new working relationship...
How is the new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23?
"It is fantastic, of course it is too early to say how good it will be. My feeling with the team is really positive and I am enjoying my time here, working and testing. So far so good."
How is it driving without traction control?
"It is a little bit more difficult, as it is easier to make a mistake and you need a lot more concentration. It is very easy to slide the rear wheels and that will cost time. At the moment I am really working on my driving technique and trying to make sure I get everything out of the car, but it is definitely a move in the right direction."
Will it be scarier and more dangerous in some races?
"No I donít think so, Formula 1 is always a bit dangerous and I am not scared of anything. You just have to be more alert and focus very hard, especially in the difficult conditions, in the rain for example, it will be a little bit harder. However I donít think that it will be too difficult and the drivers will get used to it quickly.
I think it is better for the sport as we will see some mistakes, people sliding the cars and probably more overtaking and that is what the spectators want."
Will your experience in GP2 help you adapt to this?
"Not really, of course I have some idea of how to drive a car without traction control from three years ago but all of these guys will learn it very quickly and by the time we get to Melbourne it wonít be an advantage for anyone."
How is the MP4-23 in the longer runs?
"It is really promising, we start the runs in the 1m19ís and we are finishing the runs in the low 20ís and for me that feels quite positive. When I have been talking with the engineers they seem to be encouraged, but we donít know where all the competition are, as you never know what the other teams are doing in testing, so it is too early to say. But I am quite please with how the car is handling."
Where is the car better than the car drove you last year?
"I think the biggest difference is the grip and the high speed balance. This car just has more mechanical grip everywhere. There is no one magic thing, it all just adds up over the lap and I can feel the difference everywhere."
Have you made any changes to your personal preparations prior to 2008?
"Yes, absolutely, at the start of the 2007 season I wasnít prepared enough physically, mentally or technically and the results showed that. I wasnít spending enough time with the team so as soon as I joined Vodafone McLaren Mercedes we straight away made changes to my fitness programme; we started working on making me a better athlete and also I have spent quite a lot of time with the team at the McLaren Technology Centre. So already I have changed many things and I will be a much better driver when I go to Melbourne compared to last year."
What is it like driving without the engine braking?
"Itís a little bit more difficult to stop the car and also when you lock the wheels there is nothing controlling it, so you have to be a little gentler on the brakes. I can only compare to how it was at Renault, I do not know how the McLaren was before so it is difficult to compare."
It is more difficult under braking or coming out of the corner?
"Definitely coming out of the corner is the tricky bit."
What are you aims for the year ahead?
"At the moment my focus is preparing for the first race better than I did last year. Making sure that when I go to Melbourne I have to know that I have prepared as well as I could have and there is nothing more that I could have done for the first race. Then the results should be also good."
Having driven the car now do you think that it is race winner and will you be disappointed if you are not winning races this season?
"It is difficult to say; honestly we do not know where we are compared to the others. As I said we have a positive feeling and everyone in the team is excited about the new car, but better not say too much yet."