Q&A with Narain Karthikeyan
26th Mar 2012 2:40 am
Having finished the eventful Malaysian GP a few hours ago, the Indian driver gives us the lowdown, including his incidents with Button and Vettel.
1. What were track conditions like before the race was red-flagged on lap eight?
In one word – torturous! The rain was absolutely relentless and I could see cars going off around me. So I told myself to stay out of trouble, it was really difficult to drive, especially the last sector. Visibility was low too, so it was very easy to throw it away. The red flag was a sensible call on part of the race control.
2. Sitting on the grid in P10, what was going through your mind during those 50 minutes?
Well it was a long way up from where we normally expect to be, so obviously I was elated at that point and hoping to hold on to it for a little longer. Realistically though I was well aware that it wouldn’t be possible under normal circumstances.
However, contrary to what most would think – I wasn’t praying for the race to be aborted despite the fact that it would have given me half a point (chuckles). The rain was easing and there was sufficient light so I knew we would get on with it sooner or later.
3. You were involved in two on-track incidents, talk us through them.
In the first one with Jenson, it was obviously for position at the time, he went a little too deep I guess and on my part I felt a sharp impact at the exit. It was only a tap but it took a few seconds to confirm that there was no damage on our car and get back to pushing 100 percent.
It was my in-lap as we weren’t on the right tyre for those conditions so I was just trying to get to the pits as quickly as possible.
The other was with Vettel happened while he was trying to lap me – I saw him and moved off the racing line which put me over the kerbs [still wet] on the extreme left of the track. Then I got some wheelspin, so I slowly started moving back on to the track whilst leaving some room, but he cut back across before clearing my car completely, so my front wing tagged his rear left. It was just one of those unnecessary incidents.
4. The first finish for the ‘new’ HRT squad – were you expecting to finish given how difficult it was in Australia last week and even this weekend?
To be honest I was expecting to have a much tougher time but it was great teamwork – considering things like pit stops which the crew has never done before in a race. The rain did help, initially with position as we made the right call with the tyres and more importantly it kept most reliability issues like cooling and so on at bay since temperatures were relatively lower compared to Friday and Saturday.
5. Having seen both cars across the line, what is the team’s next realistic target?
Realistically we need a lot of work to extract more speed from the car, as in terms of pure pace we’re still about 1-1.5 seconds away from our immediate rivals.
Today we may have been conservative in engine terms and so on due to reliability issues but we need to use the time we have before China and take the next step in performance. There is a lot of scope for improvement with the pit stops and coordination as well, as it was our first full race weekend of the year.