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Karthikeyan to join Williams?

A potential clash between Tata and Aguri could force Narain towards Williams' second test driver's role.

othersports Updated: Jan 07, 2006 21:29 IST

A potential conflict of sponsors' interests and concerns on technical aspects with regard to the 'Super Aguri F1' deal may push Narain Karthikeyan towards accepting the Williams' second test driver's role for 2006 Formula One season.

While it was known before that Honda Motors backing Aguri, the new entrant on the F1 scene, could be in direct conflict with Narain's sponsors Tata, another area of worry for the Indian is whether the Japanese team is capable of bringing out their new car early in the season.

"As per information available with us, Super Aguri are lagging behind. They say the car will be ready for the San Marino Grand Prix (season's fourth race), but we have our doubts," sources close to Narain told PTI.

"We don't want a repeat of 2005 situation where Jordan kept saying that the car will be ready, and finally when it came, the improvement was not significant."

The Fastest Indian on Wheels, who turns 29 next Saturday, is yet to make a decision. He is however keen to finalise the deal, with either one of them, at the latest by Jan 15.

Last year Narain announced his contract with Jordan in February. But with Williams all set for a full-fledged pre-season testing, about 20-25 days before the start of the first race, the Coimbatore resident may not have much time in hand this time around.

Should he sign up with Williams, Narain will be officially designated as 'test and reserve driver', splitting duties with Alexander Wurz, who was signed up earlier this month.

"There is no such thing as number one test driver and number two. The duties would be equally shared between the two," sources said.

How the duties are shared will depend on both technical and marketing aspects.

From commercial angle, 31-year old Wurz could be the test driver at Grands Prix of the European circuit and Narain could fill in during the Asian leg.

The technical aspect would mainly come into play during non-race weekend testings.

Austrian Wurz, who was McLaren's test driver for the last five years, would be expected to bring in his knowledge of Michelin tyres to Williams who have a contract with Bridgestone.

Narain could then be doing the system testing, like aerodynamics and traction controls.

The two would also be heavily involved in promotional activities. One of them would be exclusively used for promos at weekends when he is not testing.

And it is here that Tata would get the maximum mileage for the money they invest on Narain.

"They will have more PR duties, a lot more than race drivers," sources said.

"Paddock club is where the sponsors have major business opportunities. Once recently, a two-billion dollar was done. It is like golfing Sundays for the head honchos of the companies."

First Published: Jan 07, 2006 21:29 IST