In the qualifying held on the Formula 1 format; Karthikeyan was ninth fastest in Q1 with 1:24.085 before he improved to 1:23.253 to be eighth in Q3 on the 4.5 km track where he will be race for the first time in his career. (Agencies)
His teammate at Team Lenovo Impul, JP de Oliveira, will start on pole for the first of the two races on Sunday.
The Indian, who beat the more experienced local and foreign drivers to secure the front row in the season opener at Suzuka last month before retiring out of the race, finds himself in a more challenging situation here.
A 25-lap sprint race will precede the second main race which will require drivers to pit at least once during 35 laps.
Considering the highly competitive field, Karthikeyan is looking at a top five finish in the double header.
"The conditions are much different from the last time I came here for testing. It is a circuit I have not raced on, so I am looking forward to compete here finally," said Karthikeyan referring to his visit in January when the temperature hovered around five degrees from the pleasant 20s right now.
"It has been a difficult weekend compared to Suzuka last time around. There are a few things we are still working on the setup front," he said.
Though it is a low downforce circuit, colder air affects the aerodynamics of the car.
"Colder air is much denser, so you feel the affect of aerodynamics more in terms of stability, but increase the temperature by 20 degrees and you end up with a lot less downforce even if mechanically everything is the same," explained Karthikeyan.
The track encourages overtaking and he is confident of making his way up through the field. The completely revamped Super Formula series (formerly known as Formula Nippon) has switched to a new Dallara SF14 chassis this year; powered by two-litre, 550 bhp turbocharged engines – similar to the new F1 regulations.
In the qualifying held on the Formula 1 format; Karthikeyan was ninth fastest in Q1 with 1:24.085 before he improved to 1:23.253 to be eighth in Q3 on the 4.5 km track where he will be race for the first time in his career.