Both McLaren drivers given five place grid penalty

McLaren Driver Heikki KovalainenBoth McLaren drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton have been moved back five places on the grid for blocking Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso during the final qualifying session at Sepang.

After qualifying, Fernando Alonso singled out the two McLaren drivers saying they had cost him time on his qualifying runs. “We had four in Turn Four and then the two Ferraris somewhere else, so six cars or something like that,” Alonso began. “Four of them were off line not disturbing anyone, and two of them were on the racing line the McLarens”.

“I think it is because this year s rules of Q3 being shorter, the people finished the timed lap in a different time and different position so it was an unlucky situation. They finished their timed lap a little bit earlier than us but, for me, I am sure it was the worst thing. They are running at 60 km/h and we are at 300 km/h, so it is too big a difference in speed and a little bit dangerous.”

Nick Heidfeld also spoke out about the incident, stating that he felt the McLaren duo had cost him third spot on the grid. “If the did all they could do, they didn t do well,” a disgruntled Heidfeld said. “I was on my last lap my first lap on the option tyres which was the quickest and should have been ever quicker if not for the two McLarens driving in the middle of the racing line at 80 km/h which I was doing 289 km/h. It was not really normal and that cost me some lap time, about two tenths.”

Race stewards agreed with Heidfeld and Alonso and chose to dock the McLaren pair five places. McLaren have defended their drivers actions saying that it was an unfortunate incident and that neither driver had meant to block any other.

“We accept that stewards decisions but would like to add that neither Lewis nor Heikki impeded any of the competitors deliberately,” McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh said. “It was an unfortunate incident nothing more, nothing less. We look forward to tomorrow s race.”

Heidfeld welcomed the Malaysian race stewards decision. “Yeah, of course,” Heidfeld said. “I gain two positions it is better than seventh! I felt that I was hampered on my fast lap and obviously the stewards felt the same way I was impeded and I lost lap time. So did Fernando.”

The McLaren drivers are not the only ones who face a penalty Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima, who qualified eighteenth, will be starting from the back of the grid thanks to a ten place penalty for crashing with Kubica during last weekend s Australian Grand Prix -the incident saw both drivers retire.

Currently, the provisional grid for the 2008 Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix is as follows:

1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
3. Jarno Trulli, Toyota
4. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
6. Mark Webber, Red Bull
7. Fernando Alonso, Renault
8. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
9. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
10. Timo Glock, Toyota
11. Jenson Button, Honda
12. David Coulthard, Red Bull
13. Nelson Piquet, Renault
14. Rubens Barrichello, Honda
15. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso
16. Nico Rosberg, Williams
17. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
18. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso
19. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri
20. Adrian Sutil, Force India
21. Anthony Davidson, Super Aguri
22. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams