Former F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen recalled an interesting anecdote involving his former teammate, Lewis Hamilton.
Heikki revealed that he had a wager with the 6 times World Champion over who would be able to go flat out through Eau Rouge at Spa on the out-lap during their first run in first practice, back in 2009.
As you’ve probably guessed, Hamilton won the bet, but Kovalainen disclosed why the British driver is such an enigma in F1.
Heikki and Lewis were teammates for only 2 seasons at McLaren. And despite foraying into F1 at the same time, Hamilton dominated the Finn during their time together. 2009 was a transitional year for the Brit, from a fresh-faced rookie to a semi-experienced driver with a World Championship.
At the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton had a bet with Heikki that would terrify most drivers. For those unaware, Eau rouge is a steep, fast-paced corner that can go very wrong when not tackled correctly.
Hamilton’s bet involved going flat out an out-lap, during first practice on cold tires! As insane as it sounds, the reigning World Champion managed to pull it off and won the wager. Heikki revealed that he backed off, just a little.
Speaking to F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast, Kovalainen said:
“We were at Spa, and the first practice was just about to start, and I think Lewis came to me and said: “Would you like to do a bet, just on the out lap, that who goes faster through Eau Rouge straight out of the box?”
“In those days it wasn’t like easy flat out straight out of the box on Friday morning. And I said, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll do that.”
Then he just went with the right leg straight and went flat out the first lap. I had a tiny lift and I lost the bet. But that was the kind of thing that he was… I kind of knew that that’s lost money for me. I was never gonna win that. So yeah… he’s got unbelievable fighting spirit.”
“I think it’s just his pace was just a tiny bit quicker consistently. I don’t have any trouble admitting it. He is one of the greatest, if not the greatest driver. I’m glad I went against him” concluded Heikki.