Former test driver Heikki Kovalainen says he remains undaunted at the prospect of replacing F1’s reigning double world champion at Renault this year.
In an interview with his country’s widely read newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, the rookie Finn said that after travelling to every grand prix in 2006, he did not observe Spaniard Alonso doing anything “magical or mystical” to lift the drivers’ title trophy.
“Alonso is finished with his racing for Renault, and now it is my turn,” Kovalainen, 25, said, nonetheless applauding Alonso as a “very fine” driver.
He admitted that, as reserve driver last year, he benefited from having access to Alonso’s side of the garage.
“Yes, although there wasn’t anything particularly magical or mystical about it,” he insisted.
“It was necessary to avoid mistakes, to keep the performance-level high, and to keep your nerves in check. And that’s what I’ll be aiming for.
“But if I drive my first race worse than Alonso, it is not going to trouble me so greatly. I will be trying to improve my performance one race at a time.”
He even criticised how Alonso reacted last season to controversial decisions including the qualifying penalty at Monza and the ‘mass damper’ banning affair.
Kovalainen said: “He reacted pretty abruptly to those things, even if the punishments he got were plenty stiff.
“But it might just have been better to let it go and concentrate solely on one’s next performance. There’s little or nothing you can do about it once it’s done.”