• Malaysian Grand Prix

Grid penalty harsh but not a disaster - Kovalainen

ESPNF1 Staff
March 20, 2012 « Rosberg hoping for F-duct advantage in Malaysia | Hamilton eyes title after strong first round for McLaren »
Heikki Kovalainen was penalised for overtaking Sebastian Vettel under the safety car period © Sutton Images
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Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen has accepted his five-place grid penalty for the Malaysian Grand Prix and does not think it will be a big setback this weekend.

Kovalainen was penalised for passing Sebastian Vettel under the safety car as he dived for the pits at last weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

"I've accepted the penalty I was given for passing Vettel under the safety car - it was definitely a bit harsh but the rules are set and it's just unfortunate I made a small mistake that will put me back five places on the grid at Sepang," he said. "It's not really a problem - we know we can pass the cars that will probably be ahead on the grid and I'll just have to do my best to put myself as far up the grid as I can on Saturday so we can minimise the effect of the penalty in the race."

Caterham showed strong race pace before both cars retired in Australia, but was still some way short of challenging for a place in Q2 during qualifying. Technical director Mark Smith said part of the problem was down to getting heat into the tyres, but is confident it will not be an issue in Malaysia.

"We saw in Australia that we have some work to do on generating heat into the tyres as early as possible when the cars are on track, and the increased ambient temperatures in Malaysia will obviously help that, but I think managing degradation levels will play a key role in the race strategies of all the teams," he said. "We need to make sure we improve our qualifying performance and then I think we can be reasonably confident of repeating the sort of race pace we saw from both cars in Australia.

"We know what the car is capable of and we need to maximise track time on Friday and Saturday to help us extract the performance it has within it, so the main aim will be to have a reliable, problem free weekend and put on as good a display as we can in front of our home fans and our shareholders."