McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh is adamant that Heikki Kovalainen would have won in Turkey had it not been for his first corner incident with compatriot Kimi Raikkonen.
Kovalainen, who started from a career best front row grid slot, sustained a slow puncture on the opening lap after Kimi Raikkonen made contact with the McLaren at the first corner – the Ferrari s front wing puncturing Kovalainen s left rear tyre as the McLaren ace closed the door (see separate story HERE).
Kovalainen was forced to pit and immediately dropped to the rear of the field, his race as good as over and twelfth the best he could salvage.
“I think both our drivers did a fantastic job but, from a strategic point of view, Heikki was in the strongest position to win this race,â€ commented McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh after the race.
“I think he would have won had he not banged wheels with Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen at the start – that was just a racing incident, and nobody s fault, but the consequent puncture caused an extra stop.â€
â€He was due to run longer than Felipe in the first stint and if he was close to him, which I think he could have been, he would have been able to pass him and the race would have played out differently.â€
Whitmarsh reports that Kovalainen, who only a week ago was undergoing medical examinations following his horrific crash in Barcelona, was distraught with the result, especially having qualified so strongly.
“I ve never known him as disappointed as this, though. He really felt he could win this race – and it eluded him,â€ revealed the Englishman.
“I ve told him that I think he s absolutely right to be disappointed, but that s a by-product of the great job he did to put himself in that position. He deserves to win races this year and he will. He s an extraordinary chap.â€
The McLaren chief was particularly heartened by the all-round pace of the upgraded MP4-23 around the Istanbul Speed Park.
“The really positive thing is that we come away knowing we could have beaten Ferrari,” said the 50-year-old.