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GP Week : Issue 2
GPWEEK OPINION >> others arms before the podium ceremony, there was no hint of showmanship about it. Watching it, one felt almost embarrassed, as if the camera had accidentally caught what was intended to be a very personal and private moment as two incredibly good friends realised a childhood dream together. Nico himself claimed the pair had not been on the podium together since those karting days, but with all the excitement of the occasion, we can forgive him a slight oversight. It was, in fact, just three and a bit years ago, in December 2004 at the Bahrain Superprix F3 race. Lewis won, with Nico second. Incredibly, it was this race that secured McLaren’s continued support in Lewis for his 2005 F3 Euro-Series title assault, and cemented Nico’s place at the newly formed ART Grand Prix GP2 team. We all know the story from there. Nico takes the GP2 crown in 2005, Lewis follows in his footsteps a year later and here we are today. Having worked closely with both guys during their GP2 campaigns, the sight of their celebrations on Sunday slapped a broad grin across my face. Not only are they two of the most talented drivers of their generation, they’re also two of the nicest. After the trials and tribulations of 2007, to start the season with that level of pure unbridled joy from two drivers who were that genuinely delighted for each other, was the best advert this sport could have hoped for. broadcasting the races live, but now only on pay TV. There are not more than 5.3 million Finns, but the TV rights holder MTV3 has managed to sell 320,000 pay TV cards already in the first year. Their target is to raise the number of the card holders to half a million. With Kimi and Heikki on board they might succeed. Before Pay TV, more than one million Finns watched the Grands Prix every time. How do the two F1 Finns get along? Raikkonen and Kovalainen are almost friends. That is quite unusual among racing drivers, especially in F1. But they both respect each other a lot as good and fair guys both on the track and outside of it all. Kovalainen comes from the northern part of Finland. It is a miracle that he chose racing instead of cross-country skiing or ski jumping, which are the natural sports for youngsters in his native area of Kainuu. But Heikki shares the same hunger for speed and the same fighting spirit (called Finnish ‘sisu’) like all the Finnish stars in F1 and rally. He is a very open-minded and talkative guy, almost opposite to the prototype of Finnish champions, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen. Heikki is the exotic Finn, despite originating so far from the big cities. By co-incidence, the fathers Raikkonen and Kovalainen race against each other in the Finnish series of the Legend cars. The fathers also share a joke. Matti Raikkonen is a very talkative and ever-smiling man, much like Heikki Kovalainen, while Seppo Kovalainen is more quiet and doesn't like to be the centre of attention – a bit like Kimi. Matti and Seppo have often wondered just who is who's son... 21