25 March 2012
Karthikeyan penalised, criticised by Vettel
HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan has been compared to a "cucumber" by Sebastian Vettel, and given a post-race by the race stewards. But at least Jenson Button doesn't blame him.
At one point this looked like it could be a dream day for HRT's Narain Karthikeyan, when the Malaysian Grand Prix was red flagged by a storm while the Indian driver was running in tenth place. Could he really be on the verge of winning a championship point (or half point, as it would have been in the circumstances)?
"We were running in 10th at one point, which I think is the best position we've ever been in," he said. But unfortunately the rain stopped and the track dried out and it was impossible to keep ahead of the rest."
Nor did the restart itself go entirely to plan for him. "I made a mistake, locking up the front, and went off on turn 9 but apart from that it all went pretty well."
Not only did the race get back underway, Karthikeyan subsequently ended up in collisions with not one but two F1 world champions as his luck went well and truly sour.
It was Karthikeyan's front wing that sliced into the rear left tyre of Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull as the German driver lapped him late in the race. The puncture caused damage to Vettel's car and ultimately saw him having to park the car on the final lap - and Vettel wasn't pleased.
"As in real life, there are a few cucumbers on the road," Vettel told Germany's RTL TV coverage. "He was off the track. In my view, it was over."
When he spoke to the BBC team, he substituted "cucumber" with "idiot" instead.
By comparison, McLaren's Jenson Button was willing to take the lion's share of the blame for his earlier clash with Karthikeyan which came soon after the red flag period ended. Button made contact with the rear of the HRT, which left his front wing and tyres damaged and forced him into an urgent pit stop that effectively wrecked his race.
"I locked up the rears, couldn't slow the car down and hit Karthikeyan," was Button's view of that one.
Karthikeyan simply said that the first he knew about it was that there was a bang, adding that if he had realised Button was making an overtaking move then he would have moved over rather than get involved in a fight clearly out of his league.
As for the clash with Vettel, he'd already been obeying the blue flags and moving over to let traffic go by when he found himself running out of road and had to come back onto the track. When he did, his front wing caught the back of the Red Bull which had been powering past.
As a result of the incidents, the race officials handed him a drive-thru penalty for causing an avoidable collision under Article 16.1 of the FIA F1 Sporting regulations - which, since the race is long since over, translates to a 20s penalty added to his time.
Karthikeyan was hoping to put those negatives behind him and focus on the positives he felt he'd achieved at Sepang.
"We finished the race, did some mileage and made up two positions from 23rd so that's something to smile about," he said. "Everyone did a great job and we're all really happy with the result, now we have to go on from here and try to progress in China."
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