Narain Karthikeyan can be called India’s only link to the fast and glamorous world of Formula One. But the Coimbatore driver now wants to open up more links, so that others can go and represent the country in the cutthroat world of F1. The Williams test driver is now scouting for talent in the country and, if his plans fructify, India might well see many more Karthikeyans in the future. On the sidelines of the third round of the JK Tyre national championships, he spoke about the gradual rise of the sport in the country and India’s chances. Excerpts:
How has racing progressed in India?
It is doing pretty well. The Formula Rolon race has transformed the racing scene in India. The slick tyres have finally made it to India and that should be a big improvement.
What about the NK Racing team and how is it helping racers in India?
The idea is to promote talented racers. I want to make them the future of Indian racing. Since I know the people and have the right contacts, I thought I would be able to help them out.
Can you name a few talented upcoming racers?
There is Aditya Patel, who is very promising. Then there is Saran Vikram, who won the JK Tyre championship last year. Sahil Shelar is also good. Akhil Kushlani, who finished second last year, has now moved on to Formula BMW Asia and is now second in rookie standings. They are developing gradually.
Is India’s racing standard good enough for international events?
We are still way behind the Europeans. We don’t have enough money. The infrastructure is not up to international standards. India has just two racing tracks, whereas even a small country like England has 15. So, you can imagine…
How can we popularise the sport in India?
Involve more people and sponsors.
Do you foresee F-1 happening in India in 2009?
It’s unlikely. I doubt it. See, the racing championships that are being held in India now are very cost effective. But F1 is very expensive. I don’t think they will be able to build a track by 2009. Maybe five years down the line we can expect F1 in India. That’s because India has a market for F1. There is Lenovo, who sponsor McLaren, and they have a huge market here. They would like to have a F1 race in India.
What are your plans for next season?
I have got a contract with Williams for next year and am hoping to get behind the wheels as a driver. If it doesn’t materialise, I have got a commitment with the A1 Grand Prix and would race in it.