Baby-faced Heikki Kovalainen of Team Lotus drives at speeds over 300km/h on the track in the fastest car in the world, but off the track he prefers something much more peaceful, or some might say slow-paced.
“It’s a total contrast I know. In golf, you have to stay patient and calm. On the race track you can let loose but in golf you can’t and you must be calm,” said the Formula 1 driver who will be turning 30 on October 19.
“I’ve been playing for about two to two and a half years. I haven’t played that much though it might sound like I play a lot. I like golf a lot, it’s unique,” Heikki told me during our one-on-one interview in the Team Lotus hospitality suite.
He plays golf quite frequently — as seen on his Twitter — and also at almost every race if he has the chance to, often joined by other F1 drivers. When he was in Singapore for the Grand Prix, he played golf with former team-mate Lewis Hamilton at Marina Bay Sands on Thursday night from 9.00 pm to 1.00 am in the morning.
Heikki and Lewis play golf together from time to time at some races and sometimes in Switzerland where they live. While Heikki has not been able to beat Lewis on the track, he beat Lewis at golf that night. That should not be too surprising as Heikki’s handicap is 9.4 while Lewis’ is 18. Another driver that Heikki plays golf with is Rubens Barrichello of the Williams team, whose handicap is 10.
“In theory I should be the best golfer I guess. When I played with Lewis (in Singapore), it was quite close and I beat him by about five points. Rubens beat me in Abu Dhabi last year by four strokes though. I haven’t played with him yet but I want to play with Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) who has just started playing golf too,” Heikki said.
It doesn’t really matter who wins in golf, Heikki says, as it’s always good fun and spending quality time together with friends.
“I enjoy playing golf but no I don’t think golf helps driving. It does take my mind away from driving though; every time I play golf I don’t think about Formula 1.
“I have many golfer friends whom I play with, including my good friend Ian Poulter, a professional golfer who’s coming to Asia to play in a few tournaments.”
Has he ever thought of becoming a professional golfer then?
“Golf is just for fun. I have no time to be a pro golfer, not even after F1. I think it’s too late and I’m too old to learn now. Golf is just a hobby and maybe I can improve a little bit more.”