A delayed approval for Heikki Kovalainen to unlap himself during the safety car period in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, ruined the Finn’s race and left him in “no man’s land”, McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh has said.
The McLaren driver’s hopes of victory in the Principality were dashed from the word go when he lost control of his clutch and had to start from the pit lane.
By the time of the second safety car period, brought out in response to Nico Rosberg’s high speed shunt, Kovalainen had scythed his way up to tenth place behind Kazuki Nakajima, albeit one lap off the leaders.
Kovalainen joined the snake on Lap 61 behind Adrian Sutil. Despite being allowed to overtake the Force India driver and unlap himself it was a further four laps before he was permitted to do so by the FIA. The delay left Kovalainen stranded mid-way around the street circuit unable to make up the full lap.
“He was one lap down and we asked the FIA whether he was allowed to pass Adrian and make up the lost lap, as the rules permit,” explained McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh.
“He was eventually cleared to pass, but the race then restarted while he was still in no man’s land,” added the Englishman, hinting at a delayed response from Formula One’s governing body.
Despite being severely hampered by the safety car situation, Kovalainen still managed to salvage a world championship point and he set some blistering lap times on the way.
“He carried on pushing and scored a valuable point, so despite everything he did a fantastic job,” enthused Whitmarsh.
“It’s not always easy to maintain your focus and motivation if you are just scrapping for the odd point. His attitude was fantastic.”
While Kovalainen proved that he was more than capable of challenging race-winner Lewis Hamilton for the top honours, the Finn’s Monaco troubles – allied with non-finishes in Spain and Turkey – leave him dangerously out of touch with the championship leaders.
The 26-year-old heads across the Atlantic for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal eighteen points behind championship leader and McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton.