Sepang: Putting behind the disappointment of not qualifying for the season opening Australian GP last week, Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan is all set to make it to the grid for Sunday`s Malaysian Grand Prix. Piloting the HRT F112, Karthikeyan completed a significant amount of mileage during the two free practice sessions on Friday despite being sidelined by a technical issue after just eight laps in the first session.
"In the morning session we had a few reliability issues, the same as in Melbourne but the magnitude was thankfully far lower. There were some cooling issues as well, which was expected since the ambient temperatures were high," explained Karthikeyan. The second session saw the Indian complete an additional 18 laps -- significantly more than the brand new car had ever done in a single session. On the performance front also it turned out to be satisfactory with the lap times coming down through the sessions.
Although satisfied with the initial level of performance with basics like DRS (Drag Reduction System) and power steering in place, Karthikeyan still remains concerned with the reliability front. "We have certainly found lap time in the car, and progress is satisfactory given that we didn`t have a lot of time due to back-to-back weekends. We found a good overall balance on both tyre compounds (medium and hard) so I`d say qualifying-wise we are ok.
"The race is a different ballgame though, since I still haven`t done more than two consecutive laps as the cooling system seems unable to cope with long periods of 35-degree plus temperatures common in Sepang," he said. The team is looking forward to optimise the cooling for race distance during the final free practice session before tomorrow`s qualifying.
"At this stage, we need more consistent running with fewer stoppages to recover the time we`ve lost and as a driver, enable me to get settled into a rhythm required for 50-plus race," said Karthikeyan.