Heikki Kovalainen has admitted that he expects the McLaren team he left over the winter to 'work flat out' to provide new world champion Jenson Button with the opportunity to maintain his frontrunning form in 2010.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, the Finn refused to bad-mouth his former employer and said that he knew that Button would be made to feel welcome at Woking, but admitted that he knew the reasons why his own two-year tenure alongside Lewis Hamilton had failed to provide the race-winning performance he had expected.

"I have analysed it quite a lot myself and with the people around me, with my family and with everybody," the Lotus F1 recruit commented, "We tried very hard with McLaren towards the end of my time there, [but] it didn't work out. I don't want to get into the reason why too much, there's no point, [but] I think I know why it didn't work out for me. Now I am starting from another place and let's see how it works out."

After struggling initially at Renault, many saw the move to McLaren - in an exchange deal with Fernando Alonso - to allow Kovalainen to rediscover the sort of form that made him Nico Rosberg's closest rival for the inaugural GP2 title. However, after taking a somewhat fortuitous maiden win in the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix, the Finn was saddled with an uncompetitive MP4-24 at the start of 2009, and never really made the most of the improvements that transformed the car as the year went on. Hamilton, meanwhile, recorded two victories and out-scored the regular frontrunners over the final third of the season.

"If I went back in time, I would still go to McLaren, no question about it - but I would do things very differently," Kovalainen conceded, "I felt I didn't get everything out of the team, [but] I am doing things differently at Lotus and my target is to get 100 per cent out of the team all the time. For me, it's just a new chapter in my career and I feel I am in very good shape.

"The first chassis has arrived here, and everyone is building it. The engine is here already, so there are quite a lot more people working here compared to a week-and-a-half ago when I was here last time. It all looks very positive.

"Everybody is flat-out working, because it will be busy until the first test and first race - it will be very hectic. For me, it all looks like it is progressing really well. It looks fantastic. I don't expect it to be a rocket to start with, but it looks really cool - people will be surprised when they see the car.

"I expect some tough times, especially the first half of the season, but I have to go through them. I think we have a lot of potential and that's why I decided to join. I think, in the long run, this can be a very good place for me."

Meanwhile, as Kovalainen waits for the official launch of the first Lotus F1 machine since 1994, his former team unveiled the car that it hopes will carry either Hamilton or new recruit - and 2009 world champion - Jenson Button to the 2010 title.

"I don't know how it is going to work out for [Jenson], the only thing I can say is that he will find a team that is warm and very professional," the Finn opined, "I'm sure they will be very motivated and work flat out for him. That's what he will find, but whether it will work out for him, I don't know."

Kovalainen has been a regular visitor to the Lotus F1 base at Hingham, and he recently took time out to drop in on the home of Lotus Cars to meet the Lotus family and choose the paint scheme for his personalised Evora.

The Finn was given a tour of the production facilities yesterday [Thursday], and tested the Evora on Lotus' own test track before being given a special tour of the Classic Team Lotus workshops by Clive Chapman, son of Lotus founder Colin. The tour was steeped in Lotus history and included some of the F1 cars that helped the marque to achieve 79 GP wins, seven constructor's titles and six drivers' championships, including Emerson Fittipaldi's iconic Type 72.

"It was an honour to meet Clive Chapman and learn more about his legendary father and to see Lotus' classic F1 cars," Kovalainen admitted, "I'm really keen to drive one of the JPS cars and maybe I will be at Lotus again sometime soon to drive the Type 72!"

The 28-year-old was also impressed with the Evora, a personalised version of which he expects to take charge of before too long.

"The Evora was everything I expected - Lotus is famous for fantastic sports cars and the Evora did not disappoint," he reported, "The power to weight ratio gives the car a real racecar feel and allowed me to really push the car round the track. I enjoyed every lap and had fun sliding it sideways!

"The entire day has been great. I was really excited to see so many happy, motivated people and the support of the Lotus workforce is very much appreciated; I really got a sense of the passion the people have for the Lotus brand. I'd really like to thank everyone for a great day."

"Group Lotus is very proud of its racing pedigree and we are all very excited to share our story with Heikki," added the company's CEO Dany Bahar, "It was our honour to welcome Heikki to Group Lotus, and we wish him and the Lotus F1 Racing team every success for the 2010 F1 season.

"We take great pride in the sportscars that we produce at Hethel, and Heikki's visit provided a great opportunity to show off the multi-award winning cars that we produce and the advanced niche production facilities at Hethel."


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