Heikki Kovalainen and the Finns
There’s something about Finns and cars, you know. Back in the sixties, they dominated rallying. It was almost as if you had to have a Finnish driver if you wanted your car to win. We had it all worked out, of course – if they spent half the year driving on snow and ice, they were bound to be good at driving with no grip, weren’t they?
Then time marched on, the Finns began to disappear from rallies and the Spaniards and Frenchmen arrived. And, in all that time, we never saw a Finn in F1. Once again, we figured it had to be because they weren’t used to driving on good, smooth and ice-free tarmac.
Keke Rosberg arrived at the beginning of the eighties but we forgave him because he was really a Swede. But then came Mika Hakkinen. Can we ever forget how he rose to the occasion when asked to fill the shoes of Senna at McLaren? The guy was good and won races and championships to prove it. Suddenly all our theories on Finns were just so much speculation.
And, when Mika retired, there was Kimi Raikkonen to maintain the Finnish presence in F1. We all know how good he is; I suspect that he’s really the fastest of them all.
So what is it with these Finns? There are only five million of them, yet they provide large numbers of talented drivers in most forms of motor sport. There is something strange going on in the land of lakes and forests, I tell you.
And now we have Heikki Kovalainen, Renault’s test driver this year and in with a chance of joining their race team for 2007. Where on earth did he come from (don’t say Finland – you know what I mean)? A quick look at his record shows a quick rise to the top but nothing spectacular: a few karting championships, a 4th place in the British Formula Renault Championship, third in the British F3 Championship and victory in the World Series by Nissan (which explains his Japanese fan base). Then he came second to Nico Rosberg in the GP2 Championship and suddenly he was sitting in a Renault test car.
It seems that Renault knew what they were doing, however. Heikki has been quick in all their tests this year and is clearly a star for the future, whether or not he lands an F1 racing drive next year. There’s really only one thing left that I’d like to know about him…
How the heck does he see where he’s going?