After a sensational start to his 2014 Super Formula season at Suzuka Circuit with a front row qualifying result, Narain Karthikeyan’s maiden weekend in the series came to a premature end after an on-track incident with eventual winner Loic Duval ended his chances of a top five finish. He had qualified on the front row on Saturday but had to start fifth after being slapped with a three-place grid penalty as he was adjudged to have impeded another car during free practice.
“It has been a disappointing end to the weekend after a promising start. We should have started on the front row but were fifth on the grid and then the incident with Duval scrapped any remaining hopes”, remarked a disappointed Narain. Elaborating on the penalty he said, “During the drivers’ briefing, the organisers were clear that a three-place penalty will be awarded in case a driver is found impeding others during qualifying, but in my case it was during the start of the practice session which doesn’t really count towards anything. So the penalty was quite harsh and unfair in my opinion and such miscommunication needs to be avoided in the future.”
The completely revamped Super Formula series has switched to a new Dallara SF14 chassis this year, powered by two-litre, 550 bhp turbocharged engines– similar to the new 2014 F1 regulations.
Despite starting fifth instead of second Karthikeyan, driving for Lenovo Team Impul was still harbouring the hopes of a strong finish given qualifying pace but it wasn’t to be. Having made a decent getaway off the line, he retained his position during the opening minutes of the 43-lap race and concentrated on maintaining his pace while managing the cold tyres on a full tank of fuel. But Frenchman Loic Duval who was on an early charge seemed to run out of patience and a hasty move at the final chicane saw the two cars coming together, which ended up taking Narain’s right rear tyre out of shape. Narain’s Lenovo Team Impul teammate João Paulo de Oliveira finished seventh.