Narain Karthikeyan could soon be back on the Formula One grid. The 30-year old Indian, currently the first test driver with Williams-Toyota, has been approached by Spyker-Ferrari for the rest of the 2007 season.
The move came after Spyker dropped Dutch driver Christijan Albers on Tuesday. The decision to terminate Albers' contract was taken after non-payment by one of his sponsors.
Mark Perkins, Narain's manager, told the Hindustan Times from Monaco that the whole issue would get clearer by the end of the week. "They have contacted us about signing Narain as the second driver," Perkins confirmed. "Narain is one of the few drivers that they are looking at. But we should know more about the contract by the end of the week."
Markus Winkelhock, test driver with Spyker may, be drafted in for the Nuerburgring Grand Prix next week.
Narain has been a test driver for Williams for two seasons now. He joined them in 2006 as the second test driver behind Alexander Wurz, and was promoted to first test driver after Wurz was confirmed to race in 2007.
Asked if the contract, if it materialises, would be for the current season, Perkins said, "As of now, it will be for this season. But, if you are on the Formula One grid and do well, the contract could be extended to the next season as well."
At a time when India has been provisionally granted a Formula One race in 2009, this will definitely be great news for those hoping to see an Indian behind a Formula One car. Narain's previous experience of driving with Jordan in 2005 was decent enough.
Incidentally, Jordan was sold to Midlands, who further sold it to Spyker in September 2006. So, in a way, this would be a return for Narain to where he started his Formula One career.
Asked about Narain's feelings on joining Spyker, Perkins said he was excited about it. "He is a race driver, he just wants to race. I am sure it would be great if he gets back on the Formula One racetrack and does well - which he has the ability to do - it would be a great thing for his career."
Interestingly, the reason for dropping Albers has nothing to do with his performance. "Christijan has started to find some form in the car. But the team's ambitious development programme has been seriously compromised by non-payment by one of his sponsors and we are faced with no other option," Spyker team principal Colin Kolles was quoted on Formula1.com. “Williams has been informed about the possibility (of signing Narain).”
Which means, for all his talent, Narian needs to round up the required sponsorship amount, and soon, if the deal is to go through. In 2004 too, Narain was in talks with Minardi but the deal fell through after he failed to rake up the requisite amount. This time, one hopes things are better.