Karthikeyan in frame for Force India seat

Narain Karthikeyan has emerged as a surprise contender to fill the final spot on the 2013 grid.

Although the Indian driver and team boss Vijay Mallya have never been the best of friends, the Deccan Chronicle newspaper said Karthikeyan’s sponsor Tata has opened the doors to the Silverstone based team.

However, the Ferrari-linked Frenchman Jules Bianchi appears arguably the hotter favourite to be Paul di Resta’s teammate this year, particularly after going second quickest in the brand new VJM06 car as the Jerez test wrapped up on Friday.

Bianchi told Autosport on Friday: “Even if the plan was to stay a third driver for two years, now the plan has changed and I’m ready.”

A source, however, told the Deccan Chronicle newspaper that 2012 HRT driver Karthikeyan is now also a contender, thanks to a boost to his sponsorship coffers.

“As soon as Tata increased the budget for 2013, talks with Force India began,” the source said.

“Unlike the past, the negotiation has been a lot more positive. If talks fail, he will probably go to America for (the) Indycar series”.


Karthikeyan says FIA on his side after Vettel criticism

Narain Karthikeyan has hit back at Sebastian Vettel, following the latest bout of criticism from the reigning world champion.

Vettel’s Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, pointed the finger at HRT’s Karthikeyan after Vettel lost the lead of the US grand prix on Sunday to Lewis Hamilton.

“The race unfortunately hinged on one backmarker that didn’t use his mirrors,” he said.

Vettel screamed angrily into his radio after losing the place to Hamilton, and some immediately thought the German was being critical of the McLaren driver.

“It was not targeted at Lewis,” Vettel clarified afterwards, “it was more targeted at the backmarker which gave a nice big envelope with an invitation to Lewis.”

Red Bull and Vettel claim Karthikeyan failed to get out of the way to be lapped fast enough, which gave the chasing Hamilton the momentum to launch his successful pass.

Vettel and Indian Karthikeyan already have an unhappy history, after the German called him a “cucumber” following another track run-in earlier this year. Now, after Vettel’s latest criticism, Karthikeyan said: “I can’t hear the bulls**t anymore.

“At the drivers’ briefing Charlie Whiting told us very clearly that it is not possible to let the leaders past in the very fast first sector,” the HRT driver is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

“Charlie told us that we should let the faster cars go from turn 8, the first slower corner, which is exactly what I did. Vettel was at the briefing. Did he not hear? He complains too often and too hard.”

Indeed, one of Vettel’s closest friends in the paddock is Timo Glock, but on this occasion he is siding with fellow backmarker Karthikeyan.

“We drive our own race in these fast corners, because there are so many pieces of rubber off the racing line. The rule is that you have to let them pass by the third blue flag, not before.”

F1 legend Niki Lauda also saw nothing extraordinary about the Vettel/Karthikeyan incident.

“Lapping cars is always better for the pursuer than for the leader,” he said.


Karthikeyan: Keep politics out of Formula One

Narain Karthikeyan has explained why he did not respond to the Ferrari flag controversy at the weekend by flying the colours of India’s navy.

Ferrari irked Indian nationals and officials at the weekend by putting the flag logo of the Italian navy on the front of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa’s F1 cars. The Maranello team insisted it was not a political move, but it most certainly triggered a highly politicised debate.

So did Karthikeyan, F1’s only Indian driver, consider responding in kind by adding the Indian naval flag to his helmet livery? Some thought so, when they spotted that the top of his helmet resembled the logo on the Indian flag.

“I support my country,” he is quoted by Italy’s Tuttosport, “and for this I have the national symbol of India on my helmet, but it’s something I’ve done from the beginning of my career.”

As for the naval flag saga, Karthikeyan added: “It is better to keep politics out of the race. What the military has done is wrong, but there is an ongoing process,” he insisted.


Ecclestone thinks Karthikeyan should get a drive with Force India

Bernie Ecclestone has vowed to talk directly to Vijay Mallya about putting Narain Karthikeyan at the wheel of a Force India.

Earlier this weekend in India, Mallya’s deputy chief Bob Fernley ruled out signing F1’s only Indian driver on the basis that Karthikeyan is not good enough. But with the F1 chief executive keen to see his sport succeed in the lucrative Indian market, and 35-year-old Karthikeyan at risk of bowing out at the end of the year, Ecclestone admitted he thinks the two sides should get together.

“I think Narain should be driving a Force India but you have to talk to Vijay and see what he says,” Ecclestone told the Times of India.

According to India’s Telegraph newspaper, he added: “I think Narain should be driving for Force India. I will talk to Vijay and see what he says.”


Chandhok Snr worried F1 to lose other Indian driver

Vicky Chandhok is worried F1 may soon be without an Indian driver.

Chandhok, the Indian motor sport federation’s president, has already seen his son Karun’s F1 career end due to a lack of sponsorship. And now it is suggested F1’s other Indian driver, Narain Karthikeyan, may lose his HRT seat at the end of the season.

“After Narain and Karun, I really can’t see an Indian driver for the next, I would say, eight to 10 years,” Chandhok snr told CNN.

“Formula One has become all about money,” he said. “It never was earlier, you could find a slot with just talent. The Formula One teams have decided that even if you’ve got talent, let’s have your chequebook as well — bring in five, 10, 20 million dollars and (then) let’s give you the seat,” he added.


Karthikeyan still hoping for 2013 HRT seat

Narain Karthikeyan says he is in the running to keep his HRT seat next year.

Reports this week suggested the Indian, who returned to F1 with the backmarker Spanish team after establishing a Nascar career in 2010, could revert to the American racing scene for 2013 and is currently seeking an Indycar test. But Karthikeyan, 35, said on Friday he actually deserves a better F1 seat.

“I would definitely like the possibility since I have clearly proved that I have the speed to deserve a shot higher up the grid,” he told the Indian Express, when asked if he would like a Force India seat. “But having said that, I think they have their own plans as always so for now I am concentrating on finishing this season on a strong note,” Karthikeyan added.

HRT has said it will retain Pedro de la Rosa next year, but the occupant of the other seat for 2013 is much less clear.

“Right now I would like to stay with HRT for 2013 as we can expect more progress with proper infrastructure which has been in place now,” the Indian said. “I think it will be decided over the winter once the season is through.”


Karthikeyan: I would like to stay at HRT

Narain Karthikeyan has repeated his desire to stay at HRT in 2013.

In July, the Indian admitted that whether he can hang on to his race seat with the back-of-the-grid Spanish team is an open question.

“Formula One is a complicated business, but I would love to remain with HRT as I am very comfortable dealing with this management,” he said.

The well-funded 35-year-old debuted for Jordan in 2005, then returning to the grid in 2011 with the similarly Colin Kolles-led HRT. Despite sitting out the last races of 2011, he is back with the now Thesan-owned HRT team, which is headed in its latest incarnation by former Minardi driver Luis Perez-Sala.

“HRT has done a lot of investment,” Karthikeyan is quoted this week by the Press Trust of India. “We have a proper headquarter, proper factory now for the first time. We are trying to reap the benefits of these facilities for the next season with some good finishes. The management and I have very good rapport. Hopefully, we can work something out.

“I would like to stay at HRT. That’s the plan and it seems good so far,” he added.

Karthikeyan, who will sit out the first practice session this weekend in deference to Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua, said HRT’s 2012 car will be sporting some aerodynamic upgrades in Singapore.

“How big will be the improvement, that depends when we drive in the practice sessions,” he said.

He admits he has struggled to keep up with his teammate Pedro de la Rosa this season.

“From Silverstone onwards, I have been unlucky in missing practice one on Fridays while the second practice has been wet,” said Karthikeyan. “So to get one hour of practice on Saturday and then to compete against a fast guy like him is difficult and challenging.”

Karthikeyan’s crash caused by wheelnut issue

The cause of Narain Karthikeyan’s crash at the Belgian Grand Prix has been revealed – a wheelnut problem stemming from his second pitstop.

The HRT driver went off at Stavelot on his 30th lap, spinning into the barrier causing him to retire from the race.

Talking to Autosport Karthikeyan said, “Something went wrong with the pitstop. The bolt was cross-threaded and then it came off. I was lucky it didn’t come off at Eau Rouge or something like that.

“I didn’t feel it at first, but a few tenths before the accident I felt the front going and it happened too quickly for it to be possible to react. By then, it was already making me spin.”

Karthikeyan has revealed that the crash left him with a slightly knocked foot but this injury won’t cause him any problems at next weekend’s race in Italy.

“It was a big impact and there was a knock to my foot, but it will be fine for Monza,” he said. “What happened is a shame because up to that point we were having a good race.”

Karthikeyan excited over team’s 2013 plans

Narain Karthikeyan insists he does not regret sticking with F1 backmarker HRT.

The Indian was ousted by the formerly Colin Kolles-led outfit last year but rehired by its new management for 2012. However, his return got off to the worst-possible start in March when both he and teammate Pedro de la Rosa failed to qualify in Australia.

“It was a low point as I never thought I would be a spectator in Melbourne,” Karthikeyan, 35, told the Deccan Chronicle newspaper. “But I never regretted the decision to continue with HRT,” he insisted. “The team used to work like a GP2 outfit, but a change in the management has showed that they belong in formula one.”

Indeed, the now Luis Perez-Sala-led Spanish outfit looks set to overtake rival Marussia at the back of the field, but Karthikeyan’s progress has been less steady, out-qualified by de la Rosa on every occasion so far in 2012. He insists he has been “really unlucky” and made some errors with tyre management.

“Another setback was missing crucial track time in the free practice sessions,” said Karthikeyan. “I had to make way for our reserve driver Dani Clos in Barcelona and Silverstone. Again I am sitting out during Friday’s FP1 this weekend,” he added.

Karthikeyan said matching up against de la Rosa has been a tougher task than beating his former teammate.

“It was much easier to compete with my previous teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi than Pedro de la Rosa who comes with a rich experience of working as a McLaren driver,” he said.

Whether he can hang on to the seat for 2013 is therefore an open question.

“Formula One is a complicated business,” said Karthikeyan, “but I would love to remain with HRT as I am very comfortable dealing with this management. I know the team’s plans for the 2013 car and it’s expected to be much more advanced. So I am excited about it.”


Karthikeyan admits frustration with HRT situation

Narain Karthikeyan has played down reports he could lose his seat at HRT because of a lack of sponsorship.

An Indian newspaper this week said the 35-year-old is a million euros short of guaranteeing his place at the struggling Spanish team through November’s Brazil finale.

“Right now, everything is as it should be,” he is quoted by France’s autohebdo.fr. “Early in the season, (team boss) Luis (Perez Sala) said that if I was not close enough to my teammate, there is a chance I will not finish the season.

“That was put into my contract, but for now I respect all the conditions. There is no reason that I will not be driving (the rest of) this season,” added Karthikeyan.

He admits, however, to some frustration about HRT’s continuing rear-of-the-field position.

“To be honest I wasn’t expecting the start of 2012 to be on the same lines as last year,” the Indian driver told the Hindustan Times newspaper. “Yes I expected teething problems but not to this extent.”

He also admits he expected the team to test at Mugello last week.

“Personally speaking, I would’ve preferred some seat time at Mugello since I didn’t get any pre-season testing compared to my teammate who did the Jerez test with the old car,” said Karthikeyan.

“I was originally told that we would do the Mugello test but we decided to focus on putting the car together instead.”