Heikki Kovalainen s race ruining puncture sustained through contact with Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap may have been considerably less fatal than the wheel failure that caused his horrific shunt in Barcelona, but the resulting no-show in the race was equally as damaging to the Finn s championship hopes.
Kovalainen who only a fortnight ago was left unconscious deep inside Catalunya s tyre wall had been on the pace from the word go in Istanbul having made a fighting recovery. The McLaren ace went on to underline his rightful place in the title race by hoisting his skittish MP4-23 onto the front row, a mere tenth of a second shy of the eventual winner Felipe Massa.
With the incident at the first corner effectively writing off his chances of a decent result, Kovalainen now leaves the Bosphorus strait dangerously out of touch with the championship leaders the Finnish star having been unable to scythe his way through the pack sufficiently to pick up points.
“Not a lucky race for me as I made a bad start from the dirty line on the grid,â€ reflected the 26-year-old. “After the start Kimi and I touched slightly which caused a slow puncture to my left-rear tyre.â€
“Initially I was not sure whether the tyre was damaged or not, but during the Safety Car period I realised that I had to come into the pits for a new tyre.â€
The McLaren driver admitted that the first corner collision was effectively the end of his race: “That was almost it for me, because with my heavy fuel load and the traffic it is extremely difficult to gain any places during the race. However, I did my best but no points.â€
“These things happen, and I have had a good weekend and really enjoyed being back in the car. It s a shame that we were not able to get points today as I have been fast throughout, but I am really optimistic for Monaco.â€
McLaren team principal Ron Dennis was nonetheless full of praise for the way Kovalainen attacked the race track after his incident.
“As soon as the pit lane had reopened, we called him in for tyres and fuel,â€ said the Englishman. Thereafter he drove forcefully and well all afternoon. But for that puncture, he would have scored heavily today.â€
Kovalainen heads to Monaco 26 points adrift of championship leader Kimi Raikkonen and 14 points behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton.