Finland has always produced some great Formula1 drivers including the likes of Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and the latest master, Kimi Raikkonen. There is another star on the horizon in the form of young Heikki Kovalainen. The young Finn has a chance to leave his mark on the fast lane specially cause he has a season with one of the great teams in F1, McLaren Mercedes.
Heikki began driving at a young age and eventually became a student at the Renault Racing School. This meant that he drove for Renault through his pre-F1 career, and thus, eventually made his debut with the French Team.
In 2001, Heikki made his debut in the Formula Renault Series and ended up with the ‘Rookie of the Year award’. This was in addition to the Fourth place that he earned in the British series. So it was no surprise when in 2002, Heikki was signed up for the Renault Driver Development programme. Like any other great champion, Heikki made the most of his opportunity.
In 2002, he became rookie of the year in the Formula3 series in Britain and also took the third place in the final drivers’ standings. He notched up 5 victories on his way to third place and had 3 pole positions as well as 3 fastest lap times. In 2003, Heikki moved up to the World Series by Nissan and ended it with a second place standing overall. He also took second place at the famous Macau Grand Prix and his testing spree with Formula1 began at Renault and Minardi.
Heikki had two major achievements in the 2004 season. Firstly, he took the Formula Nissan World Series stage by storm with six wins that got him the title. And secondly, he made a giant leap towards Formula1 by joining the Renault Formula1 Team as the official test driver. The success in the World Series by Nissan led him to the Race of Champions, where he ended up with two extremely successful years.He moved up to the GP2 series in 2005. With Renault, in 2005, he participated in GP2 and came out in second place at the end of the season. He lost the title to fellow Finn, Nico Rosberg. This was in parallel with another successful season with Renault as their official test driver. 2006 was spent entirely as a test driver for the World Constructors’ Champions Renault.
The news in the air was that World Champion and Renault’s main driver, Fernando Alonso, would be moving to McLaren for the 2007 season and that Heikki would be the obvious replacement in the hot seat. So, it was Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia where Heikki Kovalainen finally got the chance to drive a Renault RS27 on a track where his timing mattered. Despite high expectations, Heikki only managed a 10th place finish while teammate Fisichella was up in 5th. Slowly, as the season progressed, Heikki started to outpace his more experienced team mate and started finishing amongst the points. He picked up points in Malaysia, Montreal and at Indianapolis till his best result came at Suzuka where he ended up on the podium.