Kovalainen made his race debut at the Australian Grand Prix. His season got off to a rough start; he made several mistakes during the race, finishing tenth. Flavio Briatore felt it was a disappointing debut for the young Finn and hoped the real Kovalainen would show up next time.
Kovalainen scored his first World Championship point in his second Grand Prix at Sepang, Malaysia, and followed this with a ninth place in Bahrain. He then secured seventh place in Barcelona, outperforming team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, but finished down the order in Monaco, in 13th.
In Canada he made mistakes throughout practice, including one at the exit of turn 7, and hit the barrier. He crashed at the first chicane in qualifying, and damaged his rear wing significantly, and failed to make it through to the second qualifying session. In the race he made progress early on, and then halted. He had luck with the strategy and the Safety Car, and a podium was within his grasp, but he could not find a way past Alexander Wurz of Williams, who had also started towards the rear of the pack. Kovalainen was pulling away from the Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen in the closing stages, which was a real confidence booster for the team.
In the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis he qualified in sixth position, and a good start saw him go past Räikkönen into fifth place. He held Räikkönen off, and led the race at the end of his first stint when the cars ahead of him made their pit stops. He re-joined behind Räikkönen and looked comfortable in sixth place until Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber broke down in front of him, and thus, Kovalainen finished fifth, while team-mate Fisichella failed to score points.
The second half of the European season failed to produce equally strong results, but it did keep the points tally ticking over. During the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, he was battling with Fisichella until the sharp Adelaide hairpin, when Jarno Trulli's Toyota made an optimistic lunge up the inside of Kovalainen which wrecked both drivers' races. Kovalainen had to pit for repairs and eventually finished 15th. Seventh place at the British Grand Prix was no disaster, with Fisichella finishing behind him.
Kovalainen scored a point at both the Nürburgring and the Hungaroring, and scored three more in Turkey, with Kovalainen coming ahead of Robert Kubica. Kovalainen again led the Grand Prix when cars ahead of him made their pit stops. Seventh place at Monza was a fair result. The team took a gamble in the next race at Spa-Francorchamps, with Kovalainen on a one-stop strategy while his challengers for the rear end of the points were all on two-stop strategies, which included the BMW's of Heidfeld and Kubica (who was docked ten places down the grid due to an engine change), Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber. A good start from Kovalainen saw him become a mobile chicane for all of them except Webber. The gamble did not pay off, although Kovalainen held off Kubica in the closing stages to secure the final points position. Better was to come at the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway, where, despite not making it through to the final qualifying session, Kovalainen raced well. While most of his rivals got into trouble one way or another in the hazardous wet conditions, Kovalainen did not and held off Kimi Räikkönen in the closing laps to take second place and his first podium in Formula One.
After finishing ninth in the Chinese Grand Prix, Kovalainen made a mistake in qualifying in Brazil and was left 17th on the grid. At the start of the race his team-mate Fisichella was involved in a collision with Sakon Yamamoto, which in turn caused Ralf Schumacher to collide with Kovalainen, forcing him to pit. On lap 36 he felt a vibration at the left rear, and suddenly the back end of the car snapped, launching Kovalainen into the barriers. The retirement, possibly caused by damage from the collision with Schumacher, was his first of the season, meaning he lost the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of becoming the first driver to finish all of the races in his first season. As it stands, he shares the record for most consecutive finishes from start of career with Tiago Monteiro, both having finished 16 races.
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