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Kovalainen 'wins' newcomer class

Heikki Kovalainen made hard work of starting 13th at Spa-Francorchamps, but still came out on top of F1's newcomer class in the Belgian GP.

Having captured the 'newcomer' pole by making it through to the second phase of qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, Heikki Kovalainen took advantage of his rivals' misfortune to come back from a disappointing start and claim race honours as well.

The Finn was promoted to 13th on the grid after a slew of post-qualifying penalties were handed out - including, notably, one for closest rival Timo Glock, who had also made it out of Q1 - but then botched his getaway on a greasy track and dropped well down the order by the end of the opening lap. With Lotus and Virgin again proving well-matched, crossing the line in 16th, a lap down on racewinner, and former McLaren team-mate, Lewis Hamilton was another solid result for Kovalainen.

“I had a bit of a problem at the start when the engine bogged down, and I activated the anti-stall, so I was already being passed by the time I could get up to speed," the Finn revealed, "Then the rain had started and, unfortunately, I damaged my front wing in the last turn so I had to pit.

"We took a gamble with the inters but the rain stopped, so I had to come back in and lost out to the group ahead of me. After that, it was a question of doing the best job I could, and keeping us in with a chance of taking advantage of the rain at the end. As it turned out, we managed to pick up a few places.”

Team-mate Jarno Trulli had vented his anger at both Virgin rival Lucas di Grassi and the stewards after feeling he had been held up by the Brazilian in Q1, but was enjoying a good race until the safety car intervened late on.

“It was pretty exciting out there, an eventful race where lots of things happened - but that's normal for Spa!" he commented, "At the start, I went wide to avoid Heikki and, unfortunately, was overtaken by a couple of other cars. After that, I was struggling a bit in the early stages with my rear tyres overheating but, fortunately, they came back so I could started pushing and managed to pull away from the guys behind.

"That was a good stint until the rain came. I had quite a big margin over my nearest competitor, so I was looking pretty good - and then the safety car came out. At the restart, I was following the other cars but, obviously, the visibility was very poor and I made a bit of an error on a high speed corner, touched the white line with the rear end of the car and it just slipped away from me, which meant I lost places.

"I continued, but the race was over from there. I'm glad we got both cars home, and it's good to see we've still got an advantage over our nearest rivals, so bring on Monza!”

Glock, like Kovalainen, was an early visitor to the pits, and opted for wets as he already had to wait for a new nosecone after taking avoiding action to miss Rubens Barrichello's accident. It proved to be the wrong choice, and the German was soon back in again, albeit now in a strong position if the track remained dry, as he would not have to pit again. However, his luck refused to hold, and the closing stages saw the rain return with a vengeance. This time, Glock opted for the extreme wet, but could not better 18th place at the chequered flag.

Related Pictures

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Friday Practice 2, Heikki Kovalainen (FIN), Lotus Racing, T127
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