Heikki Kovalainen insists he is gaining more and more confidence as the season progresses after picking up a fifth place finish in the United States Grand Prix following a competitive drive.

Coming a week after his fourth place result in Canada, fifth at Indianapolis may not be his best on paper, but in reality this weekend has proved to be Kovalainen's strongest since entering Formula 1 with Renault.

Getting a good start, Kovalainen was past Kimi Raikkonen and up to fifth by the end of the first lap, but while he climbed to fourth when Nick Heidfeld suffered a spin and claimed the lead through the pit stop window, the Finn slipped to sixth again once the first stops played out.

Although he slipped away from the battle for the leading positions, Kovalainen did at least reclaim fifth when Heidfeld eventually retired, adding another four points to a tally that leaves him just a single marker behind team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella and brimming with motivation.

"This was another strong result for me, and I am starting to get some good momentum now. I had a good start, and when the other cars went to the inside, I braked late on the outside line and managed to overtake Raikkonen. I kept him behind until the first stop, and when he pitted, along with Heidfeld, I tried to really put the hammer down and push home the advantage. I didn't even realise I was leading the race, until I came into the pits.

"Unfortunately, though, the tyre performance just wasn't there any more - and I lost out to Heidfeld and Raikkonen coming out of the pits. I tried to pass Nick on the way into turn 4, but couldn't make it stick, and then the tyres started graining because I was sliding around in the slipstream. But I kept pushing him and when he retired, it was just a case of pushing the car and keeping the lap-times consistent.

"The balance felt really good on both types of tyre today, and it was nice to see that we can fight BMW on pure pace in race conditions. Ferrari and McLaren are still a step ahead, but we are moving in the right direction with the car. If we keep pushing like this, we will keep on making progress back towards the front."

Flavio Briatore was also delighted to see his prot?g? begin to show the results expected of him, not least as it saw him challenging BMW throughout the race.

"This was a great race for Heikki, and he did a fantastic job at the end of a perfect weekend. He put pressure on BMW and was very competitive in every stint. It's a positive day for us. We took points off our direct championship rivals, and need to continue this trend in the next race."



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