Despite the Melbourne 'lies' controversy threatening to cause McLaren to implode – a scandal that has already claimed the scalps of such high-profile members as long-time team manager Dave Ryan and, today, erstwhile team principal Ron Dennis – Heikki Kovalainen is adamant that the atmosphere at Woking remains 'positive', as he eyes a Q3 challenge in this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
McLaren has been rocked in recent weeks by the disqualification of Kovalainen's team-mate Lewis Hamilton from the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, with the threat of further sanctions when the FIA's World Motor Sport Council meets to discuss the matter in Paris on 29 April – sanctions that could potentially stretch as far as exclusion from the entire season.
Add into the mix an uncompetitive car in the MP4-24, just a sole point from the opening two grands prix of the new campaign and not so much as a single racing lap completed by Kovalainen and the outlook may appear bleak. Not so, the Finn insists.
“It is very positive,” he urged of team morale. “If you look at the circumstances it could be the kind of time to bring the team down, but I think everyone has kept the focus, kept digging deep [and] kept working hard. We have got another upgrade for the car this weekend, so I think this is the attitude that we need at this difficult time, just to keep our heads up.
“That is what the whole team has done, including myself. I am just trying to put as much effort in as I can. We just try to power through these difficult times, and I think there are many positives from these races apart from the actual race day.
“It has been pretty poor both race days. I have not been able to complete a race lap yet, but otherwise I feel I am getting more out of the team. I am working better throughout the whole weekend with the team and, in fact, the base has been pretty promising. I am over those disappointments now and I just move on and will try to complete the weekend with a good Sunday as well.”
Kovalainen has spent the time in-between the Malaysian and Chinese Grands Prix with his engineers in England and out on the golf course in Singapore, joking that 'when I lost all the balls I turned up here!' He professed himself pleased that the contentious diffuser issue has at last been cleared up by the FIA Court of Appeal – “I think we have a clear direction now; everyone can go and develop things accordingly” – and suggested upgrades to the Silver Arrows' contender should provide the opportunity to battle to make it through to the top ten shoot-out in qualifying for the first time this year in Shanghai.
“Obviously we are pushing very hard to move up the grid,” the 27-year-old stressed. “We are not trying to stay around tenth place or so. We are always aiming to eventually get pole position and be winning races again. Clearly this is our target.
“I think for this weekend it would be unrealistic to say we will be fighting for pole position, but I think we can take another good step forward and hopefully we can start the challenge to get into the top ten in qualifying, into Q3. That is the next step, and then obviously always trying to fight for victory if possible – but just to keep improving throughout these weekends. That is the key at the moment.”