Heikki Kovalainen will drop five places on the grid for next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix after being found to have overtaken under the safety car during today's race at Albert Park. The Finn overtook two cars before the first safety car line prior to the restart, breaching article 40.8 of the FIA Sporting regulations.
Kovalainen had already endured a difficult race as a number of gremlins crept into the Caterham and in the end a problem with the left front suspension caused him to retire.
“Both Vitaly and I had to avoid the problems in turn one at the start and then I lost a bit of time behind Glock, but got past him quickly and then started to show good pace, enough the close the gap to the cars ahead. I lost DRS until about lap six, and had to switch off KERS right at the start, so the sort of times we were doing were clearly competitive. Both stops went well but then I felt the car starting to pull left under braking so we brought the car in to take a look and it seems like a front left suspension problem was causing the handling imbalance I’d felt for a few laps before we had to retire. I’m sure we can fix both problems for next week and we have shown today what a step forward we’ve taken, so it’s not bad news, it’s just one of those days.”
Like Kovalainen, teammate Vitaly Petrov's race ended early due to a problem with his steering wheel but the Russian was similarly encouraged by the car's race pace.
“I was having a fantastic race and it’s such a shame we had to retire the car. Until that point everything was going exactly to plan. The team did a great to job to help me pass Heikki in the first stop, I was catching Senna and Massa ahead and the car felt really well balanced. I was managing the tyres well and we definitely showed the sort of pace that can bring rewards this season, so while it’s obviously not how we wanted the first race with my new team to go we can take a lot of positives from this and move on to Malaysia where we know we can put in a strong performance.”
Caterham Technical Director Mark Smith feels today's race proved they have closed the gap on the midfield pack and hopes to be able to take the fight to them in Malaysia.
“Today we showed the sort of pace that we knew this car was capable of in pre-season testing. We ran different tyre strategies on both cars, starting Heikki on the options and Vitaly on the primes and both cars were running to plan through the first stops and right up until the problems we had in mid-race. Vitaly’s issue was related to his steering wheel and he deserves great credit for putting in such a strong performance on his first race with the team. With Heikki it looks like a front track rod issue was causing his car to pull to the left in the braking zones so we had to retire him, rather than risk an incident. However, I am very encouraged by our performance in the race and we have a good platform to build on. It is clear that we can race with a number of cars in the midfield so we will move on to Malaysia and make sure we have a strong weekend in front of the home fans.”