Full throttle in Eau Rouge: Heikki Kovalainen’s insane bet with Lewis Hamilton

(Motorsport-Total.com) – “There are good reasons why Lewis is so outstanding,” says Heikki Kovalainen. He thinks he knows her, after all, he was a team colleague of Hamilton at McLaren for two years. In retrospect, he notes: “Lewis has an incredible fighting spirit.”

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren

Heikki Kovalainen in Spa: The Eau Rouge bet with Hamilton as a key moment

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Kovalainen reports how serious Hamilton takes small things himself. That was shown at the Belgian Grand Prix 2009 in Spa. “It was just before the first practice session when Lewis came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to make a bet? Who drives faster through Eau Rouge on the out-lap!’ And back then it wasn’t that easy on a Friday morning. “

Kovalainen agreed that both McLaren drivers went out on the track – and Kovalainen found out a little later: “He had just left the car and drove full throttle through Eau Rouge on the first lap. I had a little lop in it and so the bet lost.”

The Eau Rouge bet as a key moment

At that point at the latest, he realized that he couldn’t take on Hamilton. “I realized I would [das Teamduell] “Don’t win, never win,” says Kovalainen. In fact, he was well behind Hamilton in his two McLaren years.

That is what makes Kovalainen so special about Hamilton’s driving style. “The main topic that made it difficult for me to keep up with him was the braking zones,” he says today. “Lewis was able to brake later and harder, but hit the apex of the curve and its exit as well as I did. And: He handled the tires more gently.”

Kovalainen claims to have often talked to his engineers about the special Hamilton driving style. “I was told, [mein Fahrstil] be similar to that of Fernando [Alonso], Kimi [Räikkönen] and Mika [Häkkinen]by taking a lot of speed into the curve. Lewis, on the other hand, takes a sharp turn and straightens the car earlier. “

Why Kovalainen despaired of Hamilton

He himself was really desperate. “I was able to keep up with him in fast passages. It wasn’t that difficult,” says Kovalainen. “But in the braking zones and in slow corners, Lewis is just very good there. He seems to have special sensors in his rear so that he can push himself to the limit more than anyone else.”

Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton

Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton: only one of them became world champion …

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This is another reason why he never really got Hamilton under pressure, says Kovalainen, adding: “Maybe that’s why we got along so well.”

He often felt lost on Hamilton’s side: “He was always a little bit faster. I had to stretch, in every unit. Average just wasn’t enough. And if you do it for a year and a half, you will run out of energy at some point out.”

Why Kovalainen still has no regrets

The result from Kovalainen’s point of view: “It annoyed me because [Mitte 2009] The gap got bigger and bigger and I made mistakes because I ran over the car. I have no problem conceding that. Lewis was consistently a bit faster than me. “

The bottom line has had a lasting impact on the Kovalainens Formula 1 career. “It was pretty damaging at this point in my career,” he says. “I am still happy to be driving alongside Lewis because he is one of the biggest, if not the greatest, drivers. But it just didn’t work out for me.”

And after McLaren, Kovalainen did not score any points in Formula 1: He switched to newcomer Lotus (later: Caterham) for the 2010 season and only drove in three years. At the end of his Grand Prix career, he started two races for Lotus (Renault) in 2013, but also missed the top 10.

Kovalainen really caused a sensation in 2004 when he surprisingly won the individual classification at the Race of Champions in Paris, including against Michael Schumacher and Sebastien Loeb. In 2005 he finished second overall behind Nico Rosberg in the GP2, in 2007 the 39-year-old made his Formula 1 debut for Renault. In 2008, Kovalainen scored his only Grand Prix win for McLaren.

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