Narain finishes 16th at Suzuka

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Heavens did not open up and Narain Karthikeyan could not make his best qualifying race count to finish a disappointing 16th in the Japanese Grand Prix.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:51 IST
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Heavens did not open up and Narain Karthikeyan could not make his best qualifying race count to finish a disappointing 16th in the Japanese Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the Formula One season, at the Suzuka circuit today. Kimi Raikkonen of Mc Laren Mercedes earned his seventh win of the year while Formula One's new champion Renault's Fernando Alonso finished third, the second place being booked by his teammate Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella on a bright sunny day. Best qualifying Karthikeyan had yesterday clocked his best in qualifying race to finish 11th ahead of other leading drivers of the season. "I made a good start but I got it a little bit wrong in the first corner because it was the first ever lap for me on these race tyres due to my problems on Friday afternoon, also the grip level was not perfect," a disappointed Narain said. "After the safety car went in I was able to hang on behind Massa until my first stop. After the stop the front tyres were graining a lot and after the second pit stop, I really struggled with the car balance, as it was understeering a lot. "Near the end of the race, I had to change my right front tyre, which unfortunately cost me some time. In general, it was an average race." For the twenty cars at the start of the Grand Prix on the dry circuit, a 5,807 km-long track, the weather changed radically overnight from heavy rain to bright sunshine. And Narain was glad that he "finished a good race" despite the conditions not exactly to his liking. "When I saw the bright sun this morning, I knew I could not maintain yesterday's excellent momentum. Right away, on lap 1, I let through both Kimi Raikkonen (West McLaren Mercedes) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) who were both behind me," he said. "Then at the end of the first lap, we had the first problem between Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve. I was wise and was able to avoid Montoya's spectacular accident in the last turn from the lap one. Luckily, I did not run over debris which could have damaged my tyres at that point." With the two fast German and Finnish drivers from Ferrari and McLaren ahead of Narain, he automatically lost two positions in the Grand Prix classification and a bit of time but was still running a good pace in 13th position. In the course of the race, Narain could not regain much time as the safety car came in for four laps and froze all of his movements in the race. "Later on, it was too late to fight for more, while both Michael Schumacher and Raikkonen were continuing to climb up the classification. But I managed to gain some positions and settled into a good race rhythm in ninth place," he said. Tyre lets down Narain was clocking in 1.37.875 while Ralf Schumacher clocked the fastest lap in the 8th lap in 1.33.647s "I was pushing very hard during these first laps. I refuelled on the 13 lap but the team did a perfect job in 9.0s " Narain said. On lap 18, Narain was maintaining a strong 14th position as his team-mate Tiago Monteiro also refuelled on that same lap 18. On lap 24, he was 15th but then he had to refuel on lap 32 and be relegated to the 17th position. With less than 10 laps to go, Narain had to do an unscheduled stop to change his right front tyre due to a flat spot. "It was wise for the team to check and change the right front tyre. The team decided to change it for precautionary reasons as it could have become too dangerous for me to carry on." Unfortunately this cost Narain 25 seconds. "However, even if I am slightly disappointed, I am glad to have brought my car to the finish again," said the Indian. "This is a good race just before the last race of the season. I am ready for Shanghai although I do not know the track yet. I am off to China on Monday. I have seen footage of the race last year and I believe that the facilities are amazing and the track interesting," he said. (PTI)

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