by Russell Atkins

Heikki Kovalainen has admitted Renault were somewhat underwhelmed by their seventh and eighth-place finishes in last weekend's British Grand Prix, having believed they were finally strong enough to take on BMW.

Kovalainen and team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella both ran with the BMWs early on, but increasingly fell away as the race progressed and swapped places a couple of times en route to the chequered flag, ultimately crossing the finish line in exactly the same positions as they had started.

"I'm not happy about the result," Kovalainen told reporters at Silverstone. "Seventh is not what we want to achieve, but that was the maximum we could do here. The balance was what we expected, I just had a little bit of graining and the overall grip wasn't there - I was sliding around a lot.

"There was a little problem and delay with the rear wheels at my first pit-stop, but apart from that everything went ok. It was just that over the first two stints the pace was poor on the harder tyre compound; when I changed over to the softer one I felt the car much better and was able to accelerate.

"Giancarlo was quite a lot faster early on in the race, and as a team we were fighting with the BMWs so I thought it would be better to let him go. Then towards the end of the race he was a lot slower than me on the soft tyres and I was able to pass him very easily.

"I think he saw I was catching him at the rate of 1.5 seconds a lap, so I knew I wouldn't have to fight too much. We have talked together and if there's a situation in the race where the other one is faster, we need to not hold each other up or fight because we will just go backwards, so we made a kind of gentleman's agreement.

"I just had to turn the engine down a little bit towards the end because we had a warning light on the steering wheel and we worried there was maybe a problem, but there was enough of a gap to slow down anyway."

Although Kovalainen has now generally held the upper hand over his more experienced team-mate in recent outings, he insisted there was no real glory or satisfaction in being ahead if the prize was only seventh place. He added, however, that he was confdent the car was improving race-by-race.

"It's always good to be ahead of your team-mate," the 25-year-old acknowledged, "but to be honest I really don't want to finish seventh in the race with my team-mate eighth. As a team we want to be much higher up. We are not happy about these kind of results, so we will keep working hard.

"The car is definitely better now. I think over the last few races we have made steps forward. Here the pace was not what we were expecting; we thought we really could fight with BMW, but we were clearly too slow.

"We're making progress and catching up though. We understand the problems we had at the beginning of the year and we are on the right track. There's still a lot of hard work in front of us, but we're not afraid of that."

 

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