The GP2 Series' inaugural race winner, Heikki Kovalainen, has admitted that he was the recipient of some late-race luck just as it appeared he may have been heading for second place.

The Finn, driving for reigning F3000 champion Arden International, made several key passing moves during the 37-lap race, but only inherited the lead at Imola with two laps to go when his chief rival was forced to make his second mandatory pit-stop. Although the timing screens were showing Super Nova's Adam Carroll as having made two visits to the pits, one of those was resulted in a stop-go penalty for speeding, and the Irishman was forced to make one last fleeting call at the cruellest time.

Whilst he admitted that his earlier passes had been crucial to getting him into a challenging position, Kovalainen admitted that he didn't think he had anything in hand for Carroll on the run to the flag.

"It was not a fantastic day for me yesterday, but today went much better," he said, looking back on his fifth place qualifying performance, "However, I was quite confident
coming into the race and it worked out very well for me.

"[Ernesto] Viso was holding me up quite a lot early on, but I got past him quickly - which was critical. I caught [Jose Maria] Lopez quickly too, but was stuck behind him as well. We decided to go for the pit-stop and I was then able to get into clean air and put in some quick laps.

"However, I caught up with Carroll and, while he was holding me up, I couldn't get past. That's part of the game and, eventually, he got pulled into the pits. That was good for me, because I probably wouldn't have got past him to be honest. That's motor racing, I guess."

Although Kovalainen was many people's favourite heading into the new campaign, the Arden team had not been on the pace at every test, leading some to speculate that Christian Horner's squad may have been finding it hard to acclimatise to the new GP2 machine. Pole for Nicolas Lapierre and victory for Kovalainen will surely put an end to those rumours.

"I went to have lunch with Renault in the F1 paddock today, and Flavio Briatore came past and asked me what happened yesterday," the Finn revealed, "I apologised for what had been a bit of a troubled session. When he asked if I was going to win today, of course I said yes!

"There was no point being disappointed and giving up because I only qualified fifth. It's a long race, with two pit-stops, so anything can happen. During testing, we've been very competitive with new tyres and a lot of fuel. For me, the key moment was after the first pit-stop, and I was able to run in clean air, but I was confident I could win the race because nobody was following me and I was catching everybody. I felt I was quite competitive."

 

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