Heikki Kovalainen has admitted that his breakthrough triumph in Formula 1 in this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest makes up for all of the ill-luck he has suffered throughout the 2008 season to-date – with his McLaren-Mercedes team describing the result as 'sensational'.
Though the Finn was not out-and-out the quickest driver around the Hungaroring – trailing both Ferrari's Felipe Massa and F1 World Championship-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the majority of the race – he was in the right place to take advantage when the latter's left front tyre punctured just over halfway through and the Brazilian's engine agonisingly let go while just three laps from the chequered flag.
That meant that whilst it may not strictly have been a victory on merit, given all the misfortune that has afflicted him this year – from his high-speed shunt in Barcelona to being tagged from behind by Kimi Raikkonen into the first corner in Istanbul – he was more than happy to accept it.
“There have been races this year where I've been in a position to challenge for victory but had something go wrong for me,” the 26-year-old acknowledged. “Halfway through this race, things started working for me and I started pushing Felipe hard – and it worked.
“I feel sorry for Felipe because he drove a great race, but my car felt good and I knew I could push for the victory. This is a great moment for me, something I've been targeting for many years. Hopefully, this victory will be the first of many.”
Those sentiments were backed up by the Woking-based outfit's team principal Ron Dennis and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, both of whom were effusive in their plaudits for the performance of their young charge, who just ahead of the weekend it was announced would be staying at the squad in 2009.
“One of the oldest motor racing phrases ever coined is: 'To finish first, first you have to finish',” Dennis pointed out. “Hackneyed it may be, but it's true nonetheless.
“You have to feel sorry for Felipe, who did a very good job, but Heikki drove superbly, scoring his first grand prix victory in fine style and converting his excellent qualifying pace – which has been apparent all season – into a thoroughly well-deserved win.
“Today was Heikki's day, and a very good day it was. Everyone at McLaren-Mercedes is absolutely delighted for him.”
“Heikki's first win is sensational and he deserves it,” added Haug. “We are obviously successful with our Finns – first Mika [Hakkinen], then Kimi and now Heikki.”