Kovalainen admits McLaren exit affected his confidence

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Former Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen has revealed that his spell driving for McLaren in 2008 and 2009 alongside Lewis Hamilton and the team's subsequent decision to let him go at the end of the season ended up shaking his confidence.

"McLaren taught me a lot, and I learned a lot from Lewis as well," said Kovalainen in a blog post for the official McLaren website.

"As a team they were able to help me and guide me. I became a better driver, but I think I lost a bit of confidence during the second half of 2009," he admitted. "I had a great opportunity, and I felt it started very well. But quite often in motor sport and in life small things can change your direction and change the outcome.

"I just wasn’t able to extract from the car as much as Lewis was. It was an important time, and I obviously needed some results at that point.

"I mentally wasn’t sharp enough to really try to get more out of it. Also Lewis got some [new car] parts ahead of me, and maybe I let it affect me a little bit when he got slightly better service, if you like.

"I felt I was the number two, but I should have ignored that and just got on with the job. I wasn’t driving as well as I was before."

The Finnish driver found it harder and harder to finish in the points as 2009 went on. Inevitably speculation soon swirled that he was about to lose his race seat.

"[Then-McLaren team principal] Martin Whitmarsh kept me up to date. He told me early on that they will look for another driver, they will look for Kimi [Raikkonen], and they were also looking for Jenson Button. But both of those drivers might not be available, and Martin said to me if not, then you’ll be the third choice.

"I was in America and it was Thanksgiving Day when Martin called me to say, ‘We have signed Jenson.’ My results weren’t good enough, and I was kind of expecting it."

"I felt I needed to go back to the starting point and start again with the information that I had after those two years. That’s the reason I went with Caterham, to give myself time to build something again.

"But I have good memories of McLaren, and it was the best team I ever worked with, a really great team and a powerful team. Sometimes nowadays when I see them struggling I feel sorry for them, and I hope they can come back to where they should be."

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