Stoddart defends Kovalainen after poor debut

Mon, 26 March 2007, 12:56

Paul Stoddart has leapt to the defence of Heikki Kovalainen following the rookie Finn’s ill-starred grand prix debut.

Stoddart, the former Minardi boss, gave a then 22-year-old Kovalainen a two day test at Vallelunga at the end of 2003 and nearly signed the Finn to race.

Asked if he was dismayed about Heikki’s sluggish and error-riddled driving at the 2007 season opener in Australia, Stoddart answered: “I’m not as disappointed as you might think.

“You have to remember that this Renault is far from what it should be,” the Australian told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat.

“I see how everyone was pleased with (Lewis) Hamilton’s drive and now they are making him a hero.

“But he was in a car that works well with these tyres and is very competitive.”

Stoddart said Kovalainen’s performance should not be measured against Hamilton but against the experienced Giancarlo Fisichella, who finished the race fifth but more than a minute down on the winner.

He continued: “When I looked at how inconsistent Giancarlo’s driving was, I was absolutely sure the R27 was unpredictable to drive.

“I wouldn’t doubt Heikki’s abilities. Where would they have gone so suddenly? The only problem for him is the car.

“Let’s give Heikki some time. He will be a superstar – just like Hamilton. There is no need to be worried about him,” Stoddart said.

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