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22 Mar 2008

Kovalainen, Hamilton to lose five grid places

McLaren drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton will each drop five places on the grid for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix after stewards decided they had blocked rival drivers in the closing stages in qualifying. They will now start the race eighth and ninth respectively.

Kovalainen and Hamilton were called before the stewards after suggestions that BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Renault’s Fernando Alonso were impeded during their final Q3 runs, when the McLaren drivers were conserving fuel on slowing-down laps, both having completed their final runs.

"The first corners of my last lap went smoothly, but then there were several cars driving very slowly on their in-laps,” said Heidfeld, who qualified seventh, but will now start fifth. “Apparently they had no information that the qualifying was still going on. Before Turn Four I lost a lot of time because both McLarens were cruising on the racing line.

“I think this has cost me about two tenths of a second, which would have meant being third instead of seventh. I just couldn't drive on the line I wanted and, even more importantly, could not brake were I wanted.”

McLaren are not expected to appeal the decision, which means row two on the grid will now be formed by the Toyota of Jarno Trulli and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica. Red Bull’s Mark Webber moves up to P6 to join Heidfeld on the third row, while Alonso moves up from P9 to P7.

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Mclaren MP4/23 .
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008