Narain Karthikeyan insists that he was simply following the instructions issued by FIA race director Charlie Whiting when he was caught by Sebastian Vettel in the US Grand Prix last weekend.
The German was leading the race, but coming under pressure from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, when he came up to lap Karthikeyan for the second time, and later blamed the HRT driver for holding him and allowing Hamilton the opportunity he needed to snatch the lead away.
The result, in which Vettel finished second and championship rival Fernando Alonso took third, was enough to send the pair to Interlagos this weekend separated by just 13 points instead of 20, as would have been the case had Vettel taken the win. Had that transpired, the Red Bull man would only need to finish seventh in Brazil even if Alonso won the race. Instead he needs to ensure that he outscores the Spaniard by twelve points, making a minimum of fourth spot his objective.
While both Vettel and RBR team principal Christian Horner took the opportunity to blame Karthikeyan – who also clashed with the German at Sepang – the backmarker insisted that he had only been doing what every driver had been told to do by Whiting, and move over after
"I cannot listen to this nonsense anymore," Karthikeyan told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport
magazine, "In the drivers' briefing, Charlie said we did not have to let any one past in the twisty section of the first sector. It was simply not possible because, apart from the ideal line, it was extremely dirty.
"Charlie told us that we should let the faster drivers pass after turn eight, the first slow corner after the fast section, so that's what I did. Vettel was also present at the briefing, so perhaps he had not been listening. He does this too often and it's too intense - I'm starting to get tired of it."
Karthikeyan received some support from former Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari, who now commentates for BBC Radio
. The Spaniard, who hopes to return to the F1 grid next year, knows what it is like to have to move over for the leaders, and admitted that the Circuit of the Americas layout made it tough for those in slower cars.
“Vettel was very angry about it at the time, shouting over his team radio about how unacceptable Karthikeyan's behaviour was, [but] this sort of incident has always been a part of racing,” Alguersuari wrote in his regular BBC
column, “It is a difficult situation for the backmarkers and for the leaders, [and] the drivers discuss this matter a lot in the briefings with Charlie Whiting.
“The cars being lapped have a responsibility to keep out of the leaders' way but, at the same time, they cannot just disappear and there is skill involved in the leaders' ability to handle the situation.
“The pace differential between the top cars and the slowest ones was among the biggest of the season, [and] the succession of corners in Texas makes it hard to stay out of the way. Through the fast swerves of the first sector, where Vettel caught Karthikeyan, there is basically nowhere they can go.
I don't want to say it was Vettel's fault or Karthikeyan's fault. I wasn't in their cars, I wasn't in the fight. The backmarkers are trying to get the best result - even if they don't score points, results mean money in F1 – [but], at the same time, if the leader loses a second, it can do a lot of damage. It is a very difficult situation.”