Heikki Kovalainen is hoping that he will be given the same chance of success as world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton when the pair line up for the 2009 Formula One season, after claiming that he was hampered by McLaren's tactics in his first season with the team.
Although he refused to speak out during the year, Kovalainen has since revealed that the team was keen for him to run a heavier fuel load in the final phase of qualifying to give it an alternative strategy for success should the option for Hamilton be compromised. As a result, the Finn appeared to be overshadowed by his team-mate in terms of results, eventually finishing the season back in seventh place in the points table and some 45 points shy of Hamilton's title-winning total.
While he insists that he had no doubt that he would be retained by McLaren for 2009, Kovalainen is keen to iron out an understanding that will give him the same opportunity to run at the front of the field in races. He won only one grand prix in 2008 - a race handed to him by Felipe Massa's engine failure three laps from home in Hungary - and did not always take the opportunities presented to him elsewhere - such as Barcelona and Monza - but insists that, had he been able to qualifying on similar fuel loads to his team-mate, things could have been different.
"Only once was I lighter on fuel than Lewis, and that was at Silverstone, where I was on the pole," the 27-year old pointed out to Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell
magazine, "In all other qualifying sessions, I was fuelled more heavily - often the heaviest guy in the top six or seven. If I had been at the front more often, then I would have won more frequently."
Having to battle through the pack on circuits not always conducive to overtaking and with a heavier fuel load that made his task even harder, Kovalainen managed only three podium finishes all season, and was unable to help push McLaren into top spot in the constructors' championship. While that created doubt about his position at Woking in the mind of outsiders, the Finn claims that he was not under threat of losing his seat for 2009.
"The team knew exactly what was taking place," he said, underlining the fact that the tactic was deliberate rather than the result of miscalculation or poor qualifying performance, "and it's something we have to look at for the coming year."
Kovalainen is currently en route
to a team training camp in his native Finland, but will be back on track for the first time when group testing restarts in Spain later this month. He is slated to run at both Jerez and the new Portimao circuit in Portugal before the end of the year, while Hamilton is not due to return to the cockpit until early January. The new McLaren will be unveiled on 16 January in Woking.