He may have been outpaced by Formula 1 World Championship leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying in Budapest, but Heikki Kovalainen has promised to push all-out to defeat the Briton and secure the maiden victory of his fledgling career in the top flight in the Hungarian Grand Prix today.
Kovalainen hauled himself up onto the front row of the starting grid with his final flying effort in Q3, ultimately winding up 0.241s shy of the top spot after sitting a lowly ninth for most of Q3.
Though there have been suggestions of late that he has now been consigned to a mere supporting role in Hamilton's title bid given the 30-point gap separating the pair in the drivers' standings – and his seemingly having moved aside for the sister MP4-23 at both Silverstone and Hockenheim in the last two outings – the Finn insisted his aim for race day was simple – victory.
“I'll attack as much as I can at the start and we will see how it works out,” he underlined. “Ideally I can push Lewis and keep Felipe [Massa] behind me. I will fight with Lewis, try to pass him, and of course he will try to defend.
“We will respect each other because at the end of the day we are employed by the team, and we will try to do our best for the team. Like you saw at the start at Silverstone, we do race, but we also know where the limit is, and that's how it is for all the guys at the top of Formula 1 – you can push people hard and you race hard but fair. There's nothing wrong with that.”
McLaren-Mercedes has yet to notch up a one-two finish in 2008 – indeed the habitually luckless Kovalainen has not now tasted podium champagne since the Malaysian Grand Prix all the way back in April following a run of ill-fortune – and the Silver Arrows' front row lock-out at the Hungaroring marks the team's first since Monza last year.
Though Kovalainen will be beginning the race from the dirtier, and theoretically slower, side of the grid – the legacy of a slightly 'cautious' approach on his fastest lap in Q3 – he remains hopeful of a strong challenge once the starting lights go out.
“It's not ideal,” the 26-year-old mused, “but it's better to be ahead of the other people. To be honest, as we saw at Hockenheim, I was expecting it to make a bigger difference but it didn't, so I hope that's the case here as well. I'm not going to stress myself about it.
“I think our pace has been so strong all weekend, I think we are as strong as our competitors and I feel comfortable with our strategy. The team has pushed really hard to improve our car and we've made significant steps forward in the last couple of months. I think we've found a good direction where we need to go in terms of development.