In the water-tight world of Formula One, where finding a driver’s seat is extremely tough, the new FIA rule to clamp down on Friday testing has not gone down well with the test drivers.
And, after three races in the current season, the obvious name on everyone’s lips is Lewis Hamilton, who leads the points table. India’s Narain Karthikeyan, now the first test driver for Team Williams, speaks about his role.
You were the second test driver for Williams in 2006. What has been your role this time as first test driver?
From last September, I started testing the Williams FW 28 BJ car. It has a new, faster gearbox, which is now also being used by the Toyota team. It takes just 0.9 of a second to make a gearshift in this.
So how much better is it?
It is better in other ways as well with the reliability being high. I had tested this car in Silverstone, Jerez and Barcelona. And now I will be testing for Williams on May 18 at the Paul Ricard track (at Le Castellet, near Marseille in France).
How does the new FIA rule affect test drivers, with so much restriction on Friday testing?
If you ask any of the test drivers, be it Pedro de la Rosa or someone like Sebastien Vettel, everyone will speak about how it has affected them. Obviously, teams have been able to cut costs. But if you talk about development of the car, you can’t do much with just one test car running on Friday.
Would you like to comment on last weekend’s testing when Williams had to cut-short their plans with two crashes in two days?
I would not want to comment on that. Certainly, if there are two cars being used in testing, it is an advantage. Even if one car is a wreck, the next one can be used for development.
How long do you see this FIA rule in place?
I am sure teams will realise that it is not going to be beneficial in the long run. Now what is happening in Friday testing is that the regular race drivers are out and that is what the fans want to see. But as far as development of the car goes, and nurturing new test drivers is concerned, it is bad. As it is, testing has been limited to 30,000km per year.
How much has Lewis Hamilton impressed you?
Ron Dennis spotted him 10 years back, so he has to be special. Lewis is an exciting talent and has great temperament. He does not make mistakes and is very cool.