Kovalainen gave hints to Bottas in Hamilton pursuit

Jamie Woodhouse
Heikki Kovalainen 2008 Hungarian GP win pa.jpg

McLaren principal Andreas Seidl says wins in 2021 unrealistic despite Mercedes PU.

Heikki Kovalainen has opened up on the talks he has held with Valtteri Bottas to make him more competitive against team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

The Finn spent two years with Hamilton at McLaren from 2008-09, but was unable to provide a challenge to Hamilton during their two seasons together.

It was a similar story for Bottas, but he came the closest he has yet by finishing P2 in the 2019 Drivers’ Championship.

But he is going to need that bit extra to deny Hamilton a seventh title, and Kovalainen has revealed the hints which he gave to Bottas to help him compete with the Briton.

And it mainly revolved around tyre wear.

“Only a few times I have spoken to him [Bottas] after some Grands Prix – he was doing his first year at, I think it was Mercedes [in 2017], he had a few races where he was struggling with tyre wear more than Lewis,” Kovalainen said during the Beyond The Grid podcast.

“And especially rear tyre [wear], he was unable to keep the soft tyre alive as well as Lewis, and I remember, we talked and I think it was after Bahrain… we talked about that and I was telling him my experience about Lewis.

“I said, just pay attention: ‘his braking and his kind of low-speed style, if you like, keep an eye on that because that’s where he’s really strong.’

“And I think Valtteri agreed with that, but I haven’t given him any tips – I think he can figure it out himself and he’s done very well over the years, I thought. But yeah, we’ve had small chats every now and then.”

Kovalainen said it was low-speed corners and braking where he struggled against Hamilton, even though the team compared his style to successful names of the past such as Fernando Alonso, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen.

“I was loading the tyres, I was making corners quite long and that’s kind of my driving style and I remember at McLaren the engineers were also saying Fernando’s [Alonso’s] style [was] a bit similar, Kimi’s [Raikkonen’s] style and Mika’s [Hakkinen’s] style – they all carry a lot of speed into the corner and they make corners very long,” he said.

“Whereas Lewis, he arrives, brakes late, turns the car sharp and has a straighter exit so that the tyre has less energy and I remember that particular area: the braking areas were always where I was struggling against him.”

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