Motorsport

Published: Sunday March 16, 2014 MYT 7:32:05 PM
Updated: Sunday March 16, 2014 MYT 7:33:01 PM

Kobayashi a smash hit on return to Formula One

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Japan's Kamui Kobayashi wasted no time in making an impression on his return to Formula One, ploughing his Caterham into the back of Felipe Massa's Williams before the first corner of the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The mishap took both cars out of the race instantly, leaving Brazilian Massa fuming on his aborted debut for his new team and Kobayashi red-faced in his first race back after a year on the sidelines.

The former Sauber driver, popular with crowds for his daring and willingness to overtake, joined Caterham after agreeing to race without a salary and pay $1 million (6,00,000 pounds) raised from fans through online donations.

Massa, who joined from Ferrari at the end of last year, seethed at the Japanese before Caterham absolved their driver by recognising the car had suffered a brake problem.

"It's difficult to find a word to say what's happened. starting the first race of the season...you cannot do anything," said the Brazilian.

"It's even dangerous. I think what he did in this race is not so different than what (Romain) Grosjean did in Spa and he took a race ban," added the 32-year-old, referring to the French Lotus driver who caused carnage at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix with an aggressive start.

"So it's dangerous and you cannot do that. I'm sorry, but you cannot do that."

Williams technical chief Pat Symonds denounced the collision as "sheer madness" on the part of Kobayashi.

An investigation later cleared the 27-year-old, who tweeted: "Find out system fail was no rear brake so this was problem of accident. Sorry to Felipe but was not my mistake."

Massa had lined up on the grid with high hopes of challenging for a podium, and his young team mate Valtteri Bottas's sixth-place finish - from 15th and despite a puncture after he hit the wall - supported that position.

Bottas, who qualified 10th but collected a five-place penalty for a gearbox change before qualifying, had an excellent race to grab eight points for Williams - three more than the team cobbled together in all of last year.

The 24-year-old's result and the car's performance left the former champions hopeful of a far better 2014.

"The car performed very well today which is looking encouraging for the season ahead, and on the whole as a team we can be pleased that we have made a good step forward from last season," Bottas said.

"We should have finished higher today than we did with the pace we had and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do in Malaysia."

(Editing by Alan Baldwin)

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