Heikki Kovalainen was quick to congratulate his McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton on his 2008 Formula 1 World Championship glory following the Brazilian Grand Prix – and equally quick to warn the Briton he intends to steal it away from him next year.
The Finn sacrificed his own chances at Interlagos to support Hamilton's title goal, acting as the perfect rear-gunner into the first corner to protect the sister Silver Arrow from attack from behind – but in so doing hampering his own momentum, which allowed both Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in the Renault to demote him before the opening lap was out.
The 27-year-old went on to stage an energetic duel with Alonso for sixth place before encountering a further delay in his opening pit-stop, dropping him well outside the points. A determined effort, some bold passing manoeuvres and strong pace from thereon in, however, hauled Kovalainen back into contention once again, and he would ultimately take the chequered flag seventh, just 16 seconds behind Hamilton.
Though he has struggled to match the sport's new youngest-ever world champion for the majority of the 2008 F1 campaign – winding up just seventh in the final drivers' standings, with barely half the points' total of his title-winning team-mate – the Hungarian Grand Prix winner vowed to come out fighting next season, when he intends to make the crown his own.
“The most important news is that Lewis pulled it off,” Kovalainen stated. “He did exactly what he had to do to win the championship. Everybody in the team deserves this title, particularly after what happened here one year ago.
“The guys stayed focused throughout, so congratulations to everyone. I'll now work even harder over the winter – and hopefully next year's world champion will be on the other side of our garage!”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug was similarly enthusiastic about the result at the end of a season that has been mentally and physically draining for all concerned – and one that was a fitting payback for the crushing disappointment suffered in both the drivers' and constructors' battles in 2007.
“I am really, really happy for all of us at McLaren-Mercedes,” the German remarked. “Everybody in the team worked so hard throughout the year. Thank you all, guys.
“Lewis finally won the title with one point ahead of Felipe Massa after he lost it by one point last year to Kimi [Raikkonen] in his first [season] in Formula 1. Congratulations to him.
“Lewis showed a very disciplined race, and I can imagine how hard it was for a driver like him who wants to win every race that he had to drive carefully to just get the necessary points. Congratulations to Ferrari on the constructors' title; this was a truly remarkable year for Formula 1.”