As he bids to re-establish himself off the back of a disappointing first campaign with McLaren-Mercedes in Formula 1 in 2008, Heikki Kovalainen insists he is 'more prepared than ever' and ready to 'start the season as strongly as possible'.
The Finn showed strong form on occasion last year – such as his pole position at Silverstone, front row start in Turkey and impressive race speed in Japan until his engine failure – but all-too often he languished too far away from team-mate Lewis Hamilton's pace, and ultimately wound up six spots below the Briton in the title standings.
Kovalainen well appreciates that he must perform considerably better in 2009 or else risk being consigned into the role of merely a supporting driver for the remainder of his grand prix career – and he is determined not to let that happen.
“I'm fortunate enough to have watched behind-the-scenes as this year's car has taken shape,” revealed the 27-year-old, who will take to the wheel of the newly-launched MP4-24 at the Autodromo do Algarve circuit in Portugal on Thursday (22 January). “I've been amazed at just how hard everybody in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart has worked.
“Over the winter, I also feel like I've had the opportunity to prepare fully for the year ahead; I've been busy training and working with my engineers to ensure we start the season as strongly as possible. With so many new rules, adapting quickly will be essential, and I feel more prepared than ever for the new season.”
The new MP4-24 was unveiled at McLaren's technology centre in Woking today, and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug acknowledged that the raft of new technical and aerodynamic regulations sweeping the top flight this year would provide all of the teams with a stern challenge – and, he added, will hopefully provide the fans with a more interesting spectacle into the bargain.
“In sporting terms, the 2009 Formula 1 season will be a highly interesting one,” the German stated, “particularly because of the biggest technical challenges in contemporary Formula 1 history. These include new aerodynamic rules, the re-introduction of slick tyres and the implementation of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) combined with stringent testing restrictions.
“We developed and built the new car in most favourable conditions, and it turned out to be strikingly elegant. Our colleagues in Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart did an excellent job. I am convinced that the rule changes combined with drastic cost-reduction measures will improve the Formula 1 show – and that's great for the interested spectators.”
“With nearly three months until the opening grand prix of the season, today's launch of the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-24 raises anticipation and expectations before the first race in Australia in March,” added David Wheldon, global brand director of the multiple world championship-winning outfit's title sponsor Vodafone.
“With new regulations and new cars, the season ahead looks likely to be more dramatic than ever and, like every Formula 1 fan, we are excited about it. Every Vodafone employee is looking forward to another successful season with Lewis and Heikki. We wish the whole team all the best for 2009.”