The Williams F1 team on Thursday confirmed the reappointment of Narain Karthikeyan as their test driver for the 2007 season.
“Narain joined us in 2006 and will add a vital element of continuity to the team’s test and development programme as Williams F1 forms a new technical alliance with Toyota in 2007,” said Claire Williams, the team spokesperson.
Speaking from Coimbatore, Karthikeyan sounded suitably thrilled. “I am delighted at this opportunity. It's certainly a big improvement from being their second test driver.
Last week I tested the interim 2007 car, powered by Toyota, who will be the new engine suppliers. For me to be the first one to race that car is special,” said the Indian speed king.
Talking about his experiences over the last two years, Karthikeyan said: “It's a big thing to be in F1 for the third year in a row.
Williams may not have had their best shows this season, but we are certainly looking at doing well in 2007.
Being associated with a big team has its advantages. And it's a huge relief that there are no last minute ifs and buts on whether I am with an F1 team or not.”
It not clear whether the FIA — the international body which controls the sport — will impose a ban on Friday testing before race weekends.
If the ban comes into place, the two main Williams drivers — Nico Rosberg and Alexander Wurz — would be the only ones to see action.
As for the car development programme, though, the FIA will allow the teams to do their testing, and Karthikeyan will have a big role there.
“Last year when I made the shift from Jordan as a race driver to test driver here, there was a lot of scepticism at home. I have worked hard and it’s very exciting to be in this position,” added Karthikeyan.
Williams team chief Frank Williams said he was very happy with the decision: “His (Karthikeyan's) appointment is extremely popular with the team because he is hardworking, conscientious and capable in the car… It is significant also that Narain carries with him India's growing Formula One interests.”
And for all those who have talked of Karthikeyan being in F1 purely because of “sponsorship support”, his appointment with Williams must silence those carping critics.