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Home / Other Sports / What is India’s first Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan up to these days?

What is India’s first Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan up to these days?

India finally had a Formula One driver. Narain Karthikeyan made his Formula One debut in 2005, turning out for the Jordan Team. He also achieved his first points in his debut season where he came in fourth at the United States Grand Prix.

other-sports Updated: Jan 06, 2020 16:34 IST
Yash Bhati
Yash Bhati
Hindustan Times, Delhi
Racing driver Narain Karthikeyan of India is seen at the unveil of the new F111 Hispania Racing car in Spain.
Racing driver Narain Karthikeyan of India is seen at the unveil of the new F111 Hispania Racing car in Spain. (Getty Images)
         

2005 was a historic year for Indian motorsports. India finally had a Formula One driver. Narain Karthikeyan made his Formula One debut in 2005, turning out for the Jordan Team. He also achieved his first points in his debut season where he came in fourth at the United States Grand Prix. Although those points could be debated as only 6 drivers turned out in that race due to an argument over tyre safety. Even though he could not hold on to his place in the team, Karthikeyan was a Williams F1 test driver in 2006 and 2007.

Jordan was subsequently taken over and renamed the Midlands team. Karthikeyan alleged that he could not drive for Midlands in 2006 as the team demanded a payment of around $11.7 million to guarantee his seat on the team.

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When Vijay Mallya took over the Spykar team, it was reported that Karthikeyan might get a place in the drivers’ line-up. But that did not happen. Then the Coimbatore-born got a chance at the Hispania Racing F1 Team. But after some unimpressive displays, Karthikeyan was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo for the rest of the season and only turned out at the Indian Grand Prix. He did race for the team in the following season but has gone off the Formula One circuit since 2012.

Hindustantimes
Hindustantimes

But what is India’s first Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan up to these days?

The 42-year switched to sports car racing last year. He even finished the season on a high by winning the Super GT x DTM Dream Race at the Fuji Speedway in November. He was also second in the penultimate round of the Championship. But Karthikeyan announced on Monday that he is exiting the Japanese Super GT Championship.

Speaking to PTI, Karthikeyan said he wants to explore new challenges and among them could be an appearance at the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.

Frequent travels to Japan for racing and testing eventually caught up with Karthikeyan. He was the lead test driver for Dunlop tyres in Japan, developing their Super GT tyres, in a series which is one of the last in the world to still have an all-out ‘tyres-war’ amongst four different tyres manufacturers.

Karthikeyan is stepping back from Super GT and its rigorous development and racing calendar to focus on his automotive-related business ventures.

“2019 has been an amazing year for me, but also a mega-busy one. I’ve travelled to Japan so many times that I’ve lost count actually. My year ended in the most amazing way ever by winning the DTM x Super GT Dream Race,” said Karthikeyan.

“I would like to say thank you to Satoru-san and the entire Nakajima Racing family for making it such a fantastic year. I have raced with them for a few years now in Japan, and it really feels like I have a second family in Japan,” he said.

“Narain adapted very well to the new demands of the Honda NSX-GT Super GT500 car in 2019. It was a difficult start to the year, but in the second half of the season, his hard work and strong work ethic showed, as the improvements in his performance were very good,” said president Satoru Nakajima.

“His win at the DTM x JSGT Dream race was a very difficult one, but he drove superbly, winning against some of the best sports-car drivers in the world. Although we would have liked him to continue racing for Nakajima Racing in 2020 and beyond, Narain has decided to explore other opportunities. We wish him all the best.”

(with PTI inputs)