Kicking Narain into shape
Schumacher's former trainer all set to give Karthikeyan the crucial edge. Vinayak Pande reports. Delhibriefindia Updated: Oct 25, 2011 02:24 IST
"I had no idea about F1," Balbir Singh told HT, recalling the moment when he met Michael Schumacher at a sports clinic in Germany in 1995. "I was big into tennis and a huge Boris Becker fan, but once I got a dose, I was addicted."
His meeting with the man who would become an F1 champion seven times over led to him joining forces with Schumacher from 1996 until 2005. Following his stint in F1, Balbir worked with a few Dakar teams before overseeing the training of Force India drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2008 and 2009.
His latest assignment completes a circle as he oversees the training regimen of Narain Karthikeyan.
"Narain is fast, really fast," said Balbir of his latest client. "But he has been a little lazy about his fitness until recently. I want to kick his ass and help him move further up the grid."
Balbir recalls the minimum four hours a day of training put in by Schumacher and wishes the same for Karthikeyan but understands that with the hype surrounding the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, training temporarily takes a back seat.
"I push Narain to put in four hours of training," he said. "But due to all these press conferences, he can only put in about two hours. So I tell him to find another two hours later.
"You've got to be really sharp to drive these cars, especially given the speeds they can reach."
Speaking on the anti-doping drive started by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), F1's governing body, Balbir said drivers didn't need to resort to performance-enhancing drugs.
"With the power-steering and paddle-shift gearboxes that you have in today's cars, F1 drivers don't need to do anything other than eat good food, exercise and work on their concentration. It's not like the old days when cars had manual gearboxes, a clutch pedal and needed to put in a lot more effort to steer."
Balbir refused to divulge details of his training methods but did speak on the need for drivers to follow a holistic regimen. "I try to incorporate exercises that work on the body, mind and soul," he said. "Concentration is a critical part to a driver's preparation."
Karthikeyan's chances of moving up the grid? "If you look at even the top drivers, you need one or two big sponsors along with talent," said Balbir.
"Narain needs one more good sponsor, because he definitely has the talent and the speed."