Karthikeyan: Indian Grand Prix performance key to HRT return

2012 F1 season

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Karthikeyan performed well on his comeback for HRT in India

Narain Karthikeyan says his performance in his last outing for HRT in the Indian Grand Prix helped secure his return with the team in 2012.

Karthikeyan qualified 0.022s behind Daniel Ricciardo at his home race. He finished 32 seconds ahead of his team mate, who was forced to make an extra, 42-second pit stop due to a faulty wheel.

HRT issued the following Q&A with Karthikeyan after confirming him as their second driver for 2012.

Q: It has finally been revealed that you will occupy the last seat available as an official driver, how are you facing this new challenge in Formula 1?
NK: It all really started after the Indian Grand Prix, where we had a good performance which led to the belief that I am still competitive to drive in Formula 1.

It is no secret how difficult it is to stay in F1 at this time, but I ensured that I was physically and mentally ready for any opportunity that arose. So I can’t wait to get back in the car and return to action once again.

Q: The uncertainty you’ve faced in the period spanning from the end of last season until the moment you’ve been confirmed can’t have been easy to handle. What have you done to keep yourself occupied?
NK: Well, there were more ups and downs than I can remember, positive and negative days – sometimes I just gave up but it was quickly followed by yet another glimmer of hope. It was exhausting mentally, but like the adage goes, all’s well that ends well.

There was plenty to keep me occupied during the winter though, like I said earlier I trained as hard as I would have if my drive was confirmed last season; fitness is critical in F1 and racing in general. Then there were lots of discussions, which meant a lot of travelling – flights, hotel stays and those sorts of things. So I didn’t have a whole lot of time to sit and mull over things, to be honest.

Q: This will be your third season in Formula 1, what targets have you set yourself?
NK: As far as results go, it largely depends on the development of the car, although I must say that things are looking promising. Otherwise, I have no doubts in my ability, I am extremely confident as last year and after the first few races, I drove better than ever. So I’ll be pushing hard no doubt about that.

A lot of things change this year even though it is the same team, and I am sure it’ll be for the better. The new management is wholly focused on all-round improvement and from what I have seen – they will do so.

Q: Practically the whole structure is new with respect to 2011, what sensations have the new directors given you?
NK: The team has some very capable and experienced people on-board now, like the new team principal Luis Perez-Sala and my team mate Pedro de la Rosa.

So things are definitely changing for the better ever since the new owners have taken over. Saul (Ruiz de Marco, HRT F1 CEO) has a very good approach to what F1 should be, by applying his entrepreneurship experience to the team and I’m sure that it will lead to better things. Everyone knows it is impossible to change things in F1 overnight but we have certainly taken strides in the right direction.

Q: How would you define yourself as a driver?
NK: One thing’s for sure – I never give up. I’m here, against all odds and expectations, which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I have worked incredibly hard, I believe in my ability and know that I am as quick as anyone else out there.

Q: What do you know about and what would you highlight about your team mate Pedro de la Rosa?
NK: My first ever test was with Jaguar in 2001 and I remember Pedro was the team driver at the time. Even though I don’t know him very well, I know that he’s very experienced and from what I’ve seen, has a pleasant personality. We should be getting on well – it is not about trying to beat each other but working harmoniously to help the team progress as a whole. Healthy competition will collectively allow us to get the maximum out of the car and fast-forward the development process.

He has a vast amount of developmental experience with a front-running team – so it’ll count a lot for the team in terms of approaching things and making the most out of our resources.

Q: What do you think you can contribute to the team this year?
NK: I am going to push as hard as possible, both inside and outside the cockpit and do whatever it takes to help the team progress in its rejuvenated form. Continuity is important in Formula 1 so I’m sure we’ll hit the ground running this year starting with some actual pre-season testing unlike last season where I first drove the new car on the opening race weekend in Australia.

So there is all the incentive for me to ensure that I carry the team forward by delivering results and ensuring that nothing is left on the table as far as performance is concerned.

Q: Coming from a country with not much motorsport tradition, what led you to pursue the dream of making it to Formula 1?
NK: Ever since I started my racing career, I had just one goal in mind – Formula 1. It was definitely an unconventional dream to have, considering we had very little by the way of motorsport in India.

Understandably, at the time I failed to realise what an uphill task it was. A more concrete picture emerged when I started racing in Europe, and it was during that time I came to terms with the harsh realities in earnest. We didn’t know the right steps to get to F1, but several setbacks made my resolve only stronger and my perseverance ultimately paid off when I made my debut in 2005.

Q: Last year you made history by becoming the first Indian driver ever to race at the Indian Grand Prix. What dreams do you have left to fulfill?
NK: For me, Formula 1 is a continued dream, it is always ultra-competitive and competing at the pinnacle of the sport is what I love. So I am very happy to have the opportunity to continue living my dream and I have every intention to make the best out of it.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Karthikeyan: Indian Grand Prix performance key to HRT return”

  1. By ‘performance’, is he talking about how he drove or is he referring to the slideshow presentation he did showing his projected sponsorship revenue for the next year?

    1. Maybe he performed a scene from a Sharukh Khan bollywood action movie for the team after hours. Dancing in fancy costumes and all, then sliding a horse underneath a lorry.

  2. Found an error in the article ;)

    Q: It has finally been revealed that you will occupy the last seat available as an official driver, how are you facing this new challenge in Formula 1?

    NK: It all really started after the Indian Grand Prix, where we had a good performance which led to the belief that I am still competitive to drive in Formula 1.

    It is no secret how difficult it is to stay in F1 at this time, but I ensured that I was physically, financially and mentally ready for any opportunity that arose. So I can’t wait to get back in the car and return to action once again.

  3. Interesting theory Narain… One performance really can make all the difference. That’s why Senna got his Williams drive because he qualified well at Spa. That’s why Felipe Massa is still at Ferrari because he may have beaten Alonso once or twice… It all makes perfect sense to me.

  4. He’s a pay driver and there are better talents out there but I must admit Narain surprised me with his performance in India so I’m going to be nice today and not slate him. Maybe he could be an unexpected talent. It’s unlikely he’ll achieve much against his team mate (and that’s saying something) but who knows.

    1. In some situations it won’t be the beater who gets the credit, but the beaten who’ll get the flak

    2. One race is too much to judge his quality as a driver. I was surprised as well but he was thrashed by Liuzzi at the start of the year, so I don’t think he’s that great and that India was a reflection of his actual pace.

      1. @steph @fixy He was one of the stand out drivers that weekend in India but like Narain himself said, F1 is about continuity.

  5. Tom (@tomforpresident)
    3rd February 2012, 13:31

    Personally i think it would be nice if TCS put their money into someone like Chandhok, at least he is bit of a personality. There is something about Karthikeyan that i just don’t really like or find interesting, I dont really care about pay drivers but they could at least have the decency of being interesting off the track.

    1. Someone interesting off track usually doesn’t appear to be a good sponsoring mascot.
      Which is a shame. If I was a company CEO, I’d LOVE to see F1 drivers falling drunk off their yachts and using bad language in public. If only there was someone like this in F1 today.


  6. No Narain,the fact that no one else wonted the seat helped secure your return with the team in 2012, not your last outing.

    1. Liuzzi, Garde etc etc…

    2. @macca Any prospective driver would be absolutely mad to turn down the offer of an only seat in F1. F1 is the top flight.

  7. Well I like him.

    1. He’s a nice guy for sure but I feel that he’s not the kind of driver that can bring HRT forward. Pedro’s proven himself to be a decent development driver, but I haven’t seen as much from the “younger driver”.

  8. I think, overall, there are better drivers out there trying to get a seat. However, I think that given the amount of work he has done to improve, I think he has earned it through that.

    1. I don’t have anything against Karthikeyan, but I can’t help but think Liuzzi kind of earned that seat through having a contract! That guy doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to teams not breaking their contracts with him, that’s for sure.

      1. That because he constantly disappoints their expectations. They expected him to be a leader and he got his ass handed to him by a young rookie.

        1. Wrong. Liuzzi has beaten Ricciardo, if not by a huge margin.

          Qualy score: 6-4 to Liuzzi(or 5-3 if you exclude the races when one of them didn’t qualify at all, because of tech problems).

          There were only 2/10 races when they both finished and didn’t have major problems for one driver or the other and in those the score was 1-1

          Again, not very impressive. But “the ass handed” comment, was uncalled for.

  9. There were better drivers out there, but…

    I feel that Narain deserves this opportunity. He’s the best Indian driver, not Chandhok despite people’s soft spot for Karun’s personality. He’s had a good junior career, better than Chanhok’s. He was very fast in 2005 Jordan, sometimes beating Monteiro by 2-3 seconds/lap in qualifying. the perception of that season is flawed because of Monteiro’s greater consistency, despite the fact that the score was 10-9 to Narain in qualy and 6-6 in races both finished. But it’s a known saying in motorsport that it’s possible to teach a fast driver to be consistent but it’s impossible to teach a slow driver to be fast. Because of my huge dislike of Monteiro’s type slow “cruise and collect” drivers I felt very bad that Monteiro was kept and Narain dropped at the end of 2005.

    In 2010 he didn’t embarass himself depite being away from F1 for 5 years. He has natural talent, that’s why he could do so. And although I think the team should’ve kept Liuzzi, I’m glad Karthikeyan got the seat and not Van der Garde, for example.

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