Heikki plays down title talk

Ahead of the new Formula One season, McLaren-Mercedes recruit Heikki Kovalainen is keeping his expectations in check.

Although his move from Renault to the Woking-based outfit has almost certainly improved Kovalainen's chances of scoring a maiden grand prix win, the Finn is playing down talk of championship glory.

This year's campaign will be the 26-year-old's second in the top flight, with Kovalainen heading to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix anxious to erase painful memories of his F1 baptism 12 months previously.

Kovalainen made mistake after mistake in Melbourne last year, eventually finishing 10th after running off the road more than once and incurring the wrath of team boss Flavio Briatore.

Although his performances improved considerably as the season progressed, Kovalainen concedes that he will have to start 2008 on a better footing if he wants to win races and eventually challenge for the title.

"I need to take my first pole position and actually win my first race before I can ever start of dreaming of becoming world champion," he told Autosport.

"And they are still big steps: I know I have to begin the season better than I did last year if I am to get off to a good start."


Kovalainen added that, with McLaren's pre-season testing running smoothly alongside his own preparations, he will head Down Under looking to make a big impact.

He added: "I don't think I was physically and mentally ready last year. I hadn't prepared well enough. But I've already changed things to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"I'll be turning up in Melbourne in a car I feel fully comfortable in and know exactly how to set up. The increased confidence should enable me to have a good race."