Heikki Kovalainen has rubbished rumours that he is 'unhappy' at McLaren-Mercedes – but has hinted that he would like to run with lighter fuel-loads on-board in qualifying sessions in 2009.
It was suggested recently by confidants of the Finn that he was becoming increasingly disgruntled at having been cast into a supporting role at the Silver Arrows during his maiden campaign there this year, in a bid to bolster team-mate Lewis Hamilton's title charge [see separate story – click here
Kovalainen was so disenchanted, it was contended, that he was even considering his alternative options for when his contract runs out at the end of next season. Not so, he insists.
“I feel comfortable in this team,” the 27-year-old is quoted by F1SA
as having stated at Interlagos ahead of this weekend's world championship-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix. “I have nothing to be negative about or ashamed of.
“Somebody told me that there were some quotes saying I was unhappy in the team, but I don't underline that at all.”
Kovalainen did confess, however, that he intends to discuss with McLaren the possibility of running lighter in the decisive qualifying phases in 2009. The Hungarian Grand Prix winner has invariably been sent out into Q3 with a heavier car than Hamilton this year – a situation that sees him currently trailing the Briton twelve-five on Saturday afternoons, and leaving him with a mountain to climb on race day.
Ahead of the season finale, Kovalainen has tallied just 51 points to Hamilton's 94 in 2008, consequently sitting six places lower in the standings and the only driver from the 'top three' teams of McLaren, Ferrari and BMW-Sauber not to be amongst the leading half dozen.
With the title battle poised on a knife-edge this weekend, however, many believe the Woking-based outfit's hierarchy could grant him his wish of a lighter machine in qualifying one race earlier than he is anticipating to send him out as a 'spoiler' to Felipe Massa's challenge for the crown in São Paulo.
“Over the winter we will have a look at things and try to improve for next year,” the man from Suomussalmi revealed. “I'd like to start the races higher up on the grid, because it makes a big difference in terms of the result at the end of the race – and with a bit less fuel I have a better chance of starting the race higher up.
“This year is my first year with a top team; next year we need to take a step forward.”