Heikki Kovalainen may have been rewarded with a new McLaren contract for his 2008 efforts, but insists that the team has not asked him to support team-mate Lewis Hamilton's world title bid.

There was some speculation that the Finn had made life easy for Hamilton at Hockenheim two weekends' ago, as the Briton blew past on his recovery from fifth to first. McLaren insisted immediately after the race that Hamilton had simply been faster - despite having refuelled later - and Kovalainen has since refuted suggestions that he is now playing tailgunner for the Briton in his battle with the two Ferrari drivers and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.

"First of all, I don't think Lewis needs any help," the Finn claimed during Thursday's FIA press conference at the Hungaroring, "I think he has shown that he can do the job himself and that he doesn't need anyone there.

"The second point is that I am trying to do the maximum for myself, and I am not helping any other drivers, that's for sure. I have no instructions from the team. In the past, it has been very clear that, at McLaren, they have had the policy of equal drivers and both have the same opportunities. I have the same car, the same opportunity and I am just working towards improving the pace and the results.

"The last few races have been a little bit disappointing, but the only way to move on is to keep working hard and eventually the results will come."

Indeed, Kovalainen's season as a whole has failed to live up to expectation - both his and the watching world's - but, as McLaren continues to insist, the entire blame cannot be laid at the Finn's feet. The second year driver currently lies sixth in the championship, but has just one podium finish - from Malaysia - amid mixed results that also include non-scoring finishes in ninth and twelfth. His sole retirement, however, was mechanically-related after the wheel failure that sent him spearing into - and under - the barriers in Barcelona.

The lack of results has led to suggestions that Kovalainen's stay at Woking may be a short one, with Nico Rosberg among those tipped to replace him next season, but McLaren underlined its faith in the Finn by extending his deal to partner Hamilton on the eve of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

"I think, as far as I am concerned, I have never been worried about my contractual situation," Kovalainen revealed, "Since the beginning of my McLaren career, it has been the target to extend this relationship for many, many years.

"I think [Thursday's announcement] is just to clarify the situation for everybody of where we are at the moment. First of all, I can say I am very, very happy with this team. I have had no second thoughts since I joined this team. I think there is a great potential in this team, and I want to be part of it. I want to become a successful driver in this team and, hopefully, we can announce at some point in the future that I can stay here for many, many years. I would be happy to finish my career at this team to be honest."

Having been blown away by Hamilton in each of the last two races - despite beating the Briton to pole at Silverstone - Kovalainen carried out a lot of the team's development work at the recent Jerez test, and is optimistic that he can be closer to the pace over the final third of the season.

"I am confident that we made steps forward," he reported, "I think it is fair to say that Lewis hit the sweet-spot in the last couple of races, and it was always going to be difficult to match him. We will find out this weekend how things have improved.

"I think, had the Silverstone race been dry, it could have been a different story. I felt my car was very strong there and the whole package was very much together. At Hockenheim, I was never able to get the same feeling, but I think we have got on top of things pretty well. Certainly, the feeling at Woking [after] the last day I spent testing in Jerez confirmed that we are heading in the right direction, but the only way to improve the things is to keep working, keep moving forward and eventually we will arrive there. I have no doubt about that.

"Overall, I think we improved the package again. It is a very big push from everybody in the team to improve the car all the time. I think we are making good progress and, on the last day, we made some set-up changes and some modifications to try to improve my situation, especially improving the pace in the races. I feel that we have made a step forward and we will see how it goes this weekend. In general, qualifying has been strong but, in the races, I have suffered more, so we are trying to focus on that. I think we are making good progress and we will see this weekend if we have made a significant step or not."