F1 » 1 January 1901
Kovalainen joins Swiss F1 entourage.
Just months after new McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton was heavily criticised for his decision to decamp to Switzerland, Heikki Kovalainen has revealed that he too is to leave Britain for the mountains.
According to Switzerland's Le Matin newspaper, the 26-year old Finn is to follow Hamilton's lead in swapping his UK base - this time in Oxford - for the cleaner air and lower taxes of the land-locked European nation. Unlike Hamilton, however, Kovalainen is not yet at the stage of being able to claim that media intrusion has forced the move.
The Finn, who joins Hamilton at McLaren in a swap of seats with Renault-bound Fernando Alonso, is to move with his partner to a villa in the village of Coppet, on the shores of Lake Leman, an area already popular with racing drivers as Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Alonso have all established bases there. Hamilton and former Ferrari pilot Jean Alesi live not too far away, while other drivers, including BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld have also made their home in Switzerland as opposed to the equally financially-liberated Monaco.
Hamilton revealed that he was to leave both his home close to McLaren's base in Surrey and the family home in Stevenage last October, claiming that the increased media - and paparazzi - interest in his private life following his whirlwind introduction to F1 had made staying in the UK impossible.
"When I was coming up, I knew there were sacrifices you have to make," he told the BBC at the time, "You lose your ability to go places - you don't understand what that means until you get there and you really struggle to lead a normal life. I haven't been able to spend much time with my friends or my family. It's not like a normal job, you're travelling all the time, you live out of your suitcase and it's tough to manage that and still live a normal life.
"When you come home and everybody knows you, it makes it so much harder to do normal things. I can't go to the cinema.... I go to the bathroom in a petrol station and people come in there for autographs. Over there [Switzerland], people don't come up to you - they leave you alone and give you space. I'm going to a country that I don't know, but it's very exciting."
The Briton has been accused of making the most of his new-found millionaire status by decamping to a well-known tax haven.
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