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F1 NEWS 

Chandhok confident of closing the gap to team-mate Kovalainen

Karun Chandhok, Team LotusKarun Chandhok is confident of closing the 1.5-second gap to Lotus team-mate Heikki Kovalainen before qualifying after his first full day of driving for the team.

Chandhok, who had participated in four free practice sessions so far this season before being promoted from his reserve driver role to replace Jarno Trulli on a one-off basis, ended Friday 1.495s off the Finn.

But while he has ruled out any chance of outqualifying Kovalainen because of his lack of running, the F1 returnee is expecting to make further improvements on Saturday.

"This weekend is all about making progress," said Chandhok. "I was some way away from Heikki this morning, but there were reasons for that because we weren't even chasing a laptime.

"This afternoon, we got going a bit more. Every time i get in the car, I make progress, which is important.

"Now we are 1.5s off. If I put the two laps together there was another half-a-second in there, although I'm sure everybody could say that. The main thing is that we are getting closer. If we were lost and I didn't know where the time was, then I would be worried. But I can see specific areas where we have to work together to improve.

"It's very hard to set targets when you come in in a situation like this. I know that there's no way I'm going to outqualify Heikki given the lack of mileage. If I can outqualify the Virgins and HRTs, I think I will have done quite well this weekend having been thrown straight into it."

The main areas of focus for Chandhok were adapting to the new Pirelli tyres, having had very limited running on the new-for-2011 rubber, and getting the best out of the brakes.

He admitted to struggling in the slower corners, but was happy with his performance in the fast corners, which was closer to Kovalainen's pace.

"I discovered today that the Pirelli tyres are very different to what I drove last year," said Chandhok. "And the material that we use for the brakes is a lot different to what we had at HRT. That's where I need to make progress.

"Between this morning and this afternoon, the time we found mostly came from the brakes. It's just a process of learning how the brakes and tyres react.

"The team has been fantastic and the engineers have been really good with me and very patient. It's a tough situation for them having a different driver straight into the car having not tested."

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