The look on Heikki Kovalainen's face at the end of the Italian Grand Prix said a lot, the Finn clearly not happy to be on the second step of the podium as Sebastian Vettel took an historic first win for himself and Scuderia Toro Rosso at Monza.

Kovalainen had lined up on the front row but, with the decision to start the race behind the safety car, was always likely to follow poleman Vettel into the first corner, suffering all the penalties that that entailed running on a wet track. Cautious in the spray thrown up by the Toro Rosso, the Finn dropped away from the lead and, despite running longer to his first pit-stop, was unable to overhaul Vettel in the course of the 53 laps.

"I feel we should have won," Kovalainen lamented, "Congratulations to Sebastian and Toro Rosso - they were very strong all the way through the weekend and, clearly, it was not possible [for us] to win today.

"I had a little bit of a problem earlier on in the race, in the first couple of stints, especially, with the extreme wet tyre and some problems also in warming up my brakes, so I was just struggling to find more time and trying to go faster. We kept pushing and, towards the end, it got a little bit better, but I think it was the maximum we could do today. We picked up some good points and we can look forward to the next grand prix.

Kovalainen admitted that the problems with his tyres and brakes were probably related more to the miserable ambient conditions at Monza than any failing on his MP4-23, and refused to blame the decision to start behind the safety car.

"I think it is related to the ambient temperature and how to get them working," he said, "It was just a little bit difficult today, but it wasn't easy for anyone out there and I am sure everybody had some problems. I felt that was where the performance was today and I couldn't find it earlier on in the race, but it was a bit of a surprise to have that kind of problem in the race, especially after a first few laps as, normally, it should go away.

"I actually think [starting behind the safety car] helped it a little bit to get the temperatures up a little bit better for the first lap, but it is difficult to say whether it make a big difference or not. I think it was still going to be difficult whatever the start was going to be. I didn't have enough grip to go any faster, it was as simple as that. It was quite difficult, to be honest, all the way through the race. It was not possible to find any more."

The Finn admitted that the changing conditions would have been the same for everyone, but acknowledged that the McLaren team had reacted well with its tyre strategy.

"No-one knew what to expect, it was always changing...," he said of the weather, "One hour before the race, when we went around on the drivers' parade, it looked like it might be dry. Then, just when we got into the car, it started to rain heavier and it got wetter. It was always going to be difficult to predict the weather. I think, in the end, we made the right choice with the tyres, but just didn't have enough pace."

Having had time to sift through the data of the weekend and reflect on happenings at Monza, however, McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh insisted that Kovalainen had nothing to be ashamed about.

"Heikki has no reason to feel disappointed - the reality is that he didn't put a foot wrong all weekend and looked blindingly fast in dry, damp and full-wet conditions," Whitmarsh said, "Fuel-corrected, he would have been on pole position comfortably.

"He struggled a little with visibility in the early stages of the race, and had a few difficulties with his tyres and brake temperatures, but we are not disappointed with his result. Let's not forget that Heikki is fearsomely quick, but is still very much developing his approach. We have a clearly defined programme for him in the weeks and months ahead and feel certain that he will only grow stronger."

The weeks ahead begin with the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, which kicks off a four-race run-in to the end of the season that could see rain affect at least part of every round. McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton currently leads the drivers championship by a single point, while McLaren has closed to within five of rival Ferrari in the teams' standings.