Although the TV cameras did not catch it, Heikki Kovalainen has revealed that it was in fact he who passed Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix on the way to a maiden Formula 1 podium in the rain at Fuji.

Making the most of a savvy one-stop strategy and a masterful drive in terrible conditions, Kovalainen found himself up to second place in the latter stages of the race when Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel came together ahead of him.

Nonetheless, after staving off the attentions of Felipe Massa first, Kovalainen instead had Raikkonen breathing down his neck in the final laps as his countryman eagerly attempted to grab two more points for his points tally.

However, while the TV coverage only appeared to show Raikkonen making an attempt at Kovalainen through turn ten on the final lap, it was in fact Kovalainen re-passing Raikkonen around the outside of the bend after the Ferrari had gotten ahead of him a few corners earlier. It was a determined move that very much delighted him.

"The strategy worked perfectly today, and the team deserves at least one podium today! Everybody has asked me about the last few laps with Kimi, but my mirrors had steamed up completely and I couldn't see him. I was watching the pit-board though, and every lap the gap was coming down, so I knew he would try something. He got past me into turn 6 on the final lap, but I wanted P2 so much that I went back round the outside on the way down to turn 10.

"The car was aquaplaning all over the place, but I kept my foot in and got back ahead, hoping I wouldn't lose the car. It is a fantastic feeling to score my first podium. Now, we need to try and maintain the momentum in Shanghai."

Highlighting a superb performance that also marks the first podium of the season for reigning champions Renault, Kovalainen was delighted to finally stand on the rostrum towards the end of a debut season that has had its lows but is now very much experiencing its highs.

"It has been a rollercoaster year for me, and it was like that again this weekend. We took a risk with the set-up yesterday, hoping for better conditions and when we got up this morning and saw the rain falling, we didn't expect to have a fantastic afternoon. But it just goes to show that no matter how bad you think the situation is, you never give up."

 

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