Heikki Kovalainen has vowed to be more focussed and enjoy himself to a greater degree in 2009 – as, having 'earned his place' at McLaren-Mercedes, he aims to repeat his maiden Formula 1 victory from the Hungarian Grand Prix last August 'many times'.
The Finn did not have the easiest season with the Woking-based concern in 2008 – his second in the top flight, and first with the multiple world championship-winning outfit – with his sole success, in Budapest, an inherited one following problems that afflicted both team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
He ended the campaign sitting just seventh in the drivers' standings, a full 45 points adrift of Hamilton, who at four years Kovalainen's junior became the sport's youngest-ever title-winner. The man from Suomussalmi is adamant that he must and will do better in 2009 – and he knows that key to that will be relieving some of the pressure that he placed upon himself last year.
“You get used to it,” Kovalainen told the Surrey Advertiser
, when asked about the constant expectations and scrutiny of being an F1 driver. “You have just got to not take it the wrong way. There are people who are looking at your driving and how you drive. They are commenting on it and commenting about how you drive and how you are working, but they are not the guys who can tell me how to improve things and it's really the engineers, the designers and the mechanics that I listen to and I follow.
“Other people might make a comment but I really don't take that into account. I've just got to take it the right way and take the positives. I am happy to be with this team. I will try to make the most of the package, and the overall package is strong again this year.
“Even last year the potential was to get much better results. It didn't work out so now we have another season with a clean slate, and let's hope we can improve.”
The 27-year-old – who only ascended the rostrum on two further occasions in 2008, in Malaysia and Italy, despite threatening winning performances at Silverstone, Istanbul and Fuji – also underlined the importance of making the most of McLaren's state-of-the-art technology centre, where he reveals he plans on spending more time than before over the upcoming months.
“I always feel really impressed when I come over here, how well everything is organised, and it's always nice and clean,” he enthused. “It was just a vision that Ron [Dennis – outgoing team principal] had many years ago and he's put it in place. You see the key people and the top management, and they are at the factory every day.
“They are the first ones in and the last ones out. You see them in the office; they organise things. At just about every level in the team you see people putting 100 per cent effort in and it gives you confidence, and a boost, and makes you want to put in the hours.