Heikki Kovalainen has said that he is 'extremely proud' to have helped McLaren-Mercedes beat Ferrari to third place in the 2009 FIA F1 Constructors' championship - even if what looks to be his final race with squad ended somewhat disappointingly.

Kovalainen hasn't had much luck all season, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was no exception, with his race compromised before it had even begun after technical problems in qualifying left him 18th on the grid.

Heikki battled back however, and after an impressive start made up five places on the opening lap.

From there, he began a race-long duel with Kimi Raikkonen, pushing his countryman hard for the first half of the grand prix, rising as high as fifth and then jumping him after making his sole pit-stop, on lap 32.

Whilst problems with his KERS then halted his charge, and he was unable to score it didn't matter, as the Scuderia also failed to break into the top eight. That meant McLaren hung onto 'bronze' and Heikki was particularly happy with that result.

"I got a really good start and managed to overtake some cars. Unfortunately, the performance of my car was not as I'd have liked, and the heavy fuel load made it harder to make greater progress - but I was fighting right until the last corner," Kovalainen reflected. "After my pitstop, my KERS stopped working, which meant I had to adapt the car to perform well without it.

"Still, after this race we can reflect on our overall season and look at what a great job we did to secure third position in the constructors' championship. That was thanks to an incredible team effort.

"We never gave up, and really turned the tables around. And I'm extremely proud to be a part of the team that beat Ferrari in the constructors' championship for the first time since 2005."

McLaren-Mercedes team boss, Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile was impressed with Kovalainen's form, although whether he has done enough to stay with the team next season is highly debatable.

Indeed, somewhat ironically, Kimi Raikkonen, who finished in P12, is thought to be one of the favourites to replace him at the Woking-based outfit in 2010.

"Yet again Heikki was the undeserved victim of bad luck. His qualifying was spoiled through no fault of his own and as a result he lined up 18th for the race. He made a fantastic start though - displaying a perfect combination of aggression and discipline - and passed Kimi at the first pitstops as a result, just as we'd hoped he would," Whitmarsh continued.

"Thereafter he stayed ahead of Kimi - which wasn't strictly necessary from a points-scoring point of view but gave us the comfort we needed in terms of the constructors' championship - and then adapted extremely well to the performance and balance compromises forced upon him by a mid-race KERS failure."


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