Heikki Kovalainen enjoyed a good first day with Lotus in Austin, finishing Free Practice 2 in fifth place.
His only real problem was that he was moving around in the seat – adapted from Kimi Raikkonen’s – but the team is making a new one for him overnight.
“I didn’t really have any objectives other than to lean on it as soon as possible, trying to be on the edge as soon as I felt comfortable,” said the Finn. “I think we achieved that reasonably well today. The car was well balanced almost straight away, so we didn’t have to chase the setup too much. Perhaps the tires here as well they are not going away straight away, so they give you a few more laps to try That worked quite well, I was able to get a feel for it quite quickly and push it and lean on it.
“We had a good day today, but it could be different tomorrow. The margins are still very small, so if you’re a little bit off the pace, you make a small mistake or you’re slightly out of the balance or you don’t get the tires in the right window, you could be out of the top 10 quite easily. We need to wait and see what happens tomorrow, and on Sunday. Whatever happens tomorrow it doesn’t mean that Sunday is going to be good or bad, if we are right at the front it doesn’t mean that we are going to finish the race right at the front.”
Kovalainen is reunited this weekend with his former McLaren engineer, Mark Slade. When asked how much that helped, he said: “I think it’s a significant factor. It was relatively easy to start working with him because I know him from McLaren days, and I know how he works. He knows what I need as well, I think if I get lost he can actually make suggestions just by looking at the telemetry, so it’s really helpful. I’m really enjoying working with Mark. I had a good time at McLaren with him. That side is really good, it’s given a smooth landing.”
Heikki admitted that he did a few problems adapting to the Lotus steering wheel.
“I was pressing the wrong buttons today quite a few times! I don’t find always the right button, but it was to be expected, to be honest. Nothing too dramatic, but it’s some fine small details, some KERS patterns, this kind of stuff, that I didn’t quite get right today.”
However, he’s not worried about the start on Sunday: “Start wise it’s quite familiar. We had reasonable starts today, and in some ways the procedure is more simple than Caterham, so that’s not too difficult to get used to.
“A few more buttons and paddles we use a bit more around the lap than we did at Caterham, and they are quite significant. They affect the balance of the cars and you need to have the correct settings when you go into certain corners. I was a little bit out-of-sync today a couple of times, but towards the end of the day I had a better hang of it and I was pretty much where we need to be.”