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Karthikeyan: From NASCAR trucks to F1 with Hispania
Karthikeyan: From NASCAR trucks to F1 with Hispania
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Jan 2011   |  1:32 pm GMT  |  73 comments

Narain Karthikeyan, the self dubbed “World’s fastest Indian” is back in F1 as a race driver with Hispania Racing Team for 2011, it was announced today. Karthikeyan announced the news himself yesterday via Twitter and the Times of India and today the team caught up and confirmed it.

It is a great comeback for the driver, who became India’s first F1 driver with Jordan in 2005. He was one of the six drivers who took part in the US Grand Prix that year, finishing fourth behind the Ferraris of Schumacher and Barrichello and his Jordan team mate Tiago Monteiro.

He was always very fast in F3; I remember him being impressive in qualifying on pole at Macau in 2000, but he wasn’t able to show what he could do in F1 during that year with the Jordan team. SInce then he’s raced in various series, including ALMS and Le Mans, A1 GP and Superleague Formula as well as NASCAR Trucks. To the best of my knowledge he’s the first driver ever to go from that series to F1 the following year, although Nelson Piquet Jr made the opposite move recently.

Speaking to Indian Express.com today the driver, who turns 34 next week, revealed that he had the chance to race for HRT last season, but felt that they would be in better shape in 2011, “I’ve been in discussion with HRT for a long time. Originally we had discussed the possibility of me driving for them in 2010, but I felt that it was not the opportunity I was looking for at that time, as the team was new in F1, and still an unproven one.”

“At that time, I felt it was best for me to race elsewhere in 2010. For the 2011 season HRT have expanded their own resources, and have established some strong technical partnerships.”

Karthikeyan’s chance comes courtesy of Indian conglomerate Tata, a Ferrari sponsor, which has backed him. It also backed him in 2006/7 as a test driver at Williams. So India will have a home grown driver on the grid for its inaugural race in October.

HRT team principal Colin Kolles, with whom Karthikeyan has worked before in sports cars, said, “It is a great pleasure for us to have signed Narain Karthikeyan as our race driver for the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship. I have known Narain for a long time and he can revert to the experiences he gained when he was competing for Jordan Grand Prix and being test and reserve driver for Williams F1. Narain has also been driving in other racing series and running in one of the legendary Audi sports cars in the Le Mans Series. I am sure that his experience and speed will be very useful for the team during the season. We are welcoming Narain to our team and we look forward to working closely with him this year.”

Meanwhile Kolles told Reuters on Friday that Bruno Senna will definitely not be racing for the team in 2011, “I can definitely say that Mr Bruno Senna is not going to race for HRT. 100 percent not,” he said.

Karun Chandhok, also from India, who drove for HRT in some races last season, says that he turned down the opportunity to race for them in 2011 as he is focussed on other teams.

“I had the offer from them but I turned it down because it would not have served my purpose in the long run,” he said. “Racing for the team in the first year made sense, but now I am looking at a team that could fetch me points.”

There aren’t many seats left open, with Virgin and Lotus both confirmed, as well as Petrov at Renault. A third driver role may be possible, Chandhok suggested on Friday to Reuters.

Meanwhile the latest information about HRT is that the team appears to have raised some money to build a new car for the 2011 season, using a Williams gearbox and back end. Geoff Willis is involved on the design side.

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Goodness gracious me.

At least it's not another German driver 😛

Now's probably a good time to join a Chinese manufacturer driving programme...


Might be a shock comeback for both NK and HRT as Willis could pull off something similar to Arrows 2002 car, I just hope they don't fold mid-season like Arrows did...


I am glad James remembered Macau as my underwhelming impression of Narain was erratic speed. It always surprises me that a driver not at the front is still prized by sponsors. One would think National pride would require success. I can not help thinking Petrov will be under huge pressure if Putin is supporting him so openly especially with races in both of the countries of these drivers. Some of the time you also find nepatism is involved as the driver is closely related to the companies aswell.

F1 should be above this. The so called super liscence means little in some drivers hands. One could say if you do not win this or that no F1.

Simple me thinks.

Any way at least we are saved the tormented desperation of Chandhok in the press every five seconds. He claimed to be the only driver from India in F1. Narain says he is THE WORLDS FASTEST INDIAN form the movie of that name which I highly recomend.

Now Narain is both the only and the fastest Indian in the world of F1.

I give him one season.


I also love that Movie.. Go Burt 😉 haha


Yes, its great news to see any new driver in F1, and yes he may of never been able to show his true potential at Jordan. But that was down to his own doing. It still frustrates me that Karun Chandhok was passed up before mid season and will not be given another chance. We all know its down to how much money a driver can bring, but i do hope a team owner will one day see passed the dollar signs in his eyes and give the guy another chance!


Didn't Chandhok say he turned their offer of a seat down? So he was given another chance which he didn't take. He'll be kickin' himself I suppose.



"Chandhok said he never entered into detailed talks with HRT for this year, and his efforts were always on joining a new team."


Either that's not true or next years car is destined to be absolutely terrible and Chandhok has the inside line on it.

I assume he thinks the car will be a disaster. Maybe also that the team will fold because of lack of cash.



Any word on the second HRT seat? Seems like Bruno Senna is out. Not quite sure what to make of Bruno. Can he get another ride in F1? Does he deserve one?



From what I saw in the one race I attended live, and especially the practice runs, Bruno Senna is not for F1. Better have someone else have a go now.


I saw him race in the wet at Silverstone 2008 and he was very good.


This move has to be totally money motivated and at 34...

I feel that theres another Indian driver who deserves more of a shot


Although its great to see a Indian back on the F1 grid, especially in inaugural year of Indian GP, but I am still skeptical about HRT. I really hope it doesn't turn into another nightmare like it did for Karun.

Hope they give him a good car to display his potential.

What would be even more awesome would if Karun also gets some seat and we have 2 drivers on starting grid at Delhi..


James, can you clarify whether Geoff Willis is part of the HRT or not?

In a previous post (Jan 5th) you stated: " Ex BAR technical director Geoff Willis did a stint as technical adviser to the team, but he didn’t see the season out."

But in this one: "Geoff Willis is involved on the design side."

Bit confused.


Guess : HRT ran out of money to pay Willis, so he left. Now they've found some, he's back.


I was confused too but I'm guessing he came back. I remember reading he joined HRT mid-season-ish as an advisor or such, claimed the HRT chassis made by Dallara was incredibly poor and later left the team (as maybe he realized there was nothing he could do to help?). But now with a new car being built, looks like hes back on.


“I’ve been in discussion with HRT for a long time. Originally we had discussed the possibility of me driving for them in 2010, but I felt that it was not the opportunity I was looking for at that time, as the team was new in F1, and still an unproven one.”

Excuse me - what? Does he feel they are more proven now? I mean, last year, nobody knew how bad they were going to be, I think the most sensible time to sign to HRT has passed.



What do you think is the prime reason behind signing Narain@34 in a young team like HRT. Is it only the financial backing from TATA or also something to do with JAYPEE group who are responsible for the construction of IndianGP circuit? JAYPEE group is also the Sponsor of HRT. Hence they would love to have an Indian Driver at inaugural IndianGP in a team sponsored by them.


In the context of one season 34 is not a big deal. There may be the hope of fewer crashed cars than a younger driver. Being around a long time, with ALMS, NASCAR and F1 experience means that he should be well media trained too (no idea if he is though).


No JAYPEE group is sponsor of karun chandhok


"He was one of the six drivers who took part in the US Grand Prix that year, finishing fourth behind the Ferraris of Schumacher and Barrichello and his Jordan team mate Tiago Monteiro"

Seriously... That's the best background.... 4th in a sad joke 🙂


I think only 4 cars started the race didn't they, so what he's saying is that he came last !?


Six cars started, Ferraris, Jordans and Minardis. Monteiro got a podium


That race was just plain surreal. Tiago Monteiro, whom we never heard of again, still beat Karthikeyan there though. Being fourth ahead of the Minardi's at that race is not exactly something to be proud of I agree.


It sounds like Chandhok turned the seat down. I hope he can find another car.

Chandhok: 'I have zeroed in on two teams but I wouldn't like to reveal the names till I finalise the deal, which might come through in a couple of weeks.'


I doubt this is true. Unless calling an F1 team on the phone is contact (contract). Karun got his chance in life which is more than many of us. It appears he is from a wealthy family and so I am sure he is not sweating his mortgage. Some times you just need to see sense. Go to WIKI now and look at Karuns record and then ask would I risk MILLION$$$$ on him? Car or not the F1 grid knows more than we.


Hmmm, we'll have to see how this one turns out. My expectations aren't too high.

Regarding the 2005 USGP, this is the only F1 race I've ever been to (I'm still mad at that one)


they could have chosen a worse pay driver. NK is maybe not WDC material.. but he can be fast, if he can string together a weekend with good results.

it will be interesting to see what age has brought him


I tell ya, if it weren't for the technical side of F1, I'd be about ready to give it up.



and how are you going to manage the underpowered 4 cyl engines that are coming up? that's going to be tough. But the vast mayority of the fans don't seem to mind.!!! And as long as the tracks are full of them, the fia will keep on making this type of choices.


Fans don't mind the four-pots because they remember the eighties. Current formula engines are absolutely pathetic compared to the 1.5 liter turbos of 25 years ago. BMW had an engine that had 1500bhp in quali trim and between 1200 and 1300 in the race. Not even the V10s came close to that and today's V8s are half as powerful. Half. As. Powerful. Half!

Since the very beginning of Grand Prix Racing, even before it was called F1, engine size was restricted to retain some degree of relevance and common sense. It's part of the sport and you'll just have to accept it. However, it's important to remember is that there will be no more development-freeze. Even with more restrictions on fuel-use and durability (compared to the aforementioned Turbo-beasts), it's unthinkable the new engines won't be a lot more powerful than the current V8 before long.

If anything is going to stand in the way of that kind of power it will be fuel-restrictions; size and the number of cylinders are irrelevant. Give today's engineers a few gallons of used frying-fat for fuel, a turbocharger and 1-litre of displacement to work with and they'll churn out something better than the current V8s.

...oh and they'll need about a billion quid of course, but that's F1 for you. And if they're going to spend that type of cash, it might as well have a wider application. The more relevant a certain technology is, the more money can be spent on it (and the more powerful it will be).

Developing a V16 would be an indulgence, a V8 has limited application but a better turbocharger is worth every penny (or hundred million) to a company like Mercedes, VW or Renault. Likewise KERS (though the push-to-pass implementation is artificial nonsense and should be scrapped).


hmm... apparently Wikipedia disagrees with an old F1 book of mine about the exact power-output of the BMW engine -but even they still mention over 1000bhp in race-trim and 1300 in quali.

The point stands either way: since small 25 year old turbo-engines are more powerful than current V8s, its unlikely the new engines will be down on power at all. Furthermore, obsessing over displacement and cylinder-count is completely missing the point and ignoring F1 history.


We are being told these new engines will have the same power as the current ones (750bhp) assisted with KERS. Do you suggest it is not going to be exactly that?

The idea is to introduce new tech and brake away from burning fuel by the buckets. All in all a sensible course is being set, it seams.

Don't you feel for the polar bear?!


correction [it seems]


Whiney little girlie-engines. They'll probably have to come inside if it starts to rain.


Can someone please explain to me why karan chandruk gets so much attention and sympathy from f1 fans? He was poor in gp2 even to the point where force india wouldn't touch him. He paid for his drive just like NK has and even then was outpaced by a fellow rookie. Yet people have been clambering for him to get a good seat. If being media friendly, active on twitter is all you need to be to be fan favourite these days I may apply for that force india seat. I'm better looking than him as well.


Totally agree..Chandhok is rubbish, as shown by his GP2 results...Senna miles better but looks like he's missed the boat now...


I think a lot of it probably does have to do with what a likable guy he is. As for his performance versus Senna, people often seem to interpret that in accordance with which driver they prefer: Senna fans emphasize qualifying performance in their comparison, whereas Chandhok fans (and people who hate Senna, of whom there seem to be many) emphasize race results. All things considered, I think they were *fairly* evenly matched in a car that was difficult to do much of anything in...


I couldn't agree more! He was out-qualified 8-2 by Senna who many people seem to be happy to see the back of.


If you have the money Ross you can get the other hrt seat......


Once I'm done with Uni and paid off my debt a pay seat at a lower F1 team is next on the list.

My main point is that Karun Chandhok is just another average driver like Narain Karthikeyan and Sakon Yamamoto were yet those drivers are poked at with a stick while I even heard the BBC touting Chandhok for the 2nd Renault seat and he gets a mention when another pay driver takes his place and people are portraying it as if he has taken a really talented drivers position. There are a lot better drivers without a Indian backer (Heidfeld, Senna, Parfett, Di Resta or Hulkenburg) which will not be on the grid next year.

I found Trulli's comments recently about how he expect a world champion in the next ten years to come from a rich family. He also reckons he was in the last crop of drivers who managed to get to the top without a decent backer. Sad state of affairs.


Indeed. I read Jarno s comments and felt the same.

Many drivers and journos have commented that you need a massive amount if money to drive even in junior formula nowadays.

That said senna was from a wealthy family, so wealthy doesn't always mean not very good.


When I win the lottery you guys can expect to see *somebody's car driven by a big old gray-haired geezer - guaranteed!


involvement in a NASCAR sanctioned event should be a pre-requisite towards superlicense prohibition..


Good to see NASCAR trucks becoming the feeder series for F1. 🙂


Well, y'know them thar trux is pretty high-tech!


I know it's early in the year but James, please Rich C's reply in your Top 10 Best Posts Of The Year. It'll be even funnier when NK wins the wooden spoon for the most DNQs for 2011.


Driving an overweight truck? Sounds like perfect prep for an hrt!

What a load of baloney that he thought theyd be in better shape in 2011!


>>>>>Driving an overweight truck? Sounds like perfect prep for an hrt!<<<<<<

That made me chuckle!


My thoughts exactly!


Narain Karthikeyan is 34?! How time flies.....


Born 1977, I was surprised too


this indians hold their age, almost as good as irish hold their liquor.


The "World's fastest Indian" is of course Anthony Hopkins! Or rather his motorbike in the EXCELLENT film of the same name (no not Anthony Hopkins) about the true story of the long-standing world land speed record set by Kiwi amateur Burt Munro. Recommended.

Just a thought though, isn't Karthikeyan a little old to be re-entering F1, after all he is no Schumacher? But it would be nice to see him do well, or as well as could be expected in an HRT. Lets face it, even if everything is perfect and no mistakes are made, the setup dead right and nothing goes wrong he is still going to be in the rearmost 4 cars on the grid assuming he makes the 107%, pretty soul destroying really.


I really liked Chandhok, but I am surprised that he was offered a seat and Senna wasn't...


I thought Chandhok didn't do a bad job on the odd occasions he had the chance. He and Klein, the best to sit in a HRT last year, are without drives. But then this is F1, innit ?


think it cos senna and the boss dont get on too well. I honestly thought senna did a pretty good job witha [mod] of a car.


I dont think Senna came with a wallet. I dont think he saw eye to eye with Kolles which was apparent in the email he sent to the team prior to the British GP which led to him being dropped for that race. I am sure Kolles would much rather have a greatful pay driver than a trouble maker who has ambition.

I feel for Senna. He was a cert for the Honda 09 team which produced the greatest F1 car in the past ten years until they pulled the plug. He was then reduced to driving a glorified GP2 car in F1 and now will probably drift into obscurity in the states.


Surely Senna could come with a wallet...I mean, it's Senna! The name itself sells!

True, you could be right that they didn't get along, that's probably why he was dropped, and the fact they declared "definitely not"...

I feel for all this season's rookies, none of them have been given a chance or credit. Petrov is getting another 2 years which is good, but I'm just worried we're losing some good talent.

I mean, would Hamilton have been taken seriously if he started at a small team like Force India?


Hi James

Were both HRT's in the same spec last year? I think I read that one was better than the other but can't remember which way round it was.

Also, is TATA's involvement potentially more than a sponsorship? I don't see the benefit of letting the home grown talent trailing around at the back of the grid, but can see a company that large being interested in running an F1 team long term. Now they have Jaguar/Land Rover, sponsoring Ferrari is almost a conflict of interest, and the price of a sticker on a non tv visible endplate is probably about the same as HRT's budget for the season.


Now *there's your truck-racing link! You seen the way those guys drive them in the Dakar? "Insane" would be putting it mildly.


Kolles is saying that no deal is done yet with Tata, despite signing Narain


I seem to recall he was really quick in the Jordan in free practice at Albert Park, prompting Frank Williams to say 'He's not afraid of that car...' I can't believe he's 33... I think he has some quality, and in any case it'll be awesome to have him on the grid for the Indian GP.


Is NK's comeback a record of sorts? I dont remember any driver in recent F1 history who has made a comeback after half a decade in hiatus.


Luca Badoer... 10 years between races. Admittedly still involved in F1 during that time, but a long awaited comeback nonetheless.


Poor old Bruno.


I'd read that chandhok was angling and likely to get the third driver slot at lotus.

The wierd rumour was that would include drives at Korea and India.

James, seemed wierd to me? Can't imagine jarno or heikki giving up a race each.


Mmmm. Unlikely but stranger things have happened. Maybe a run on Friday..I'll follow up on that with Tony F


I thought so too. I can't imagine either driver moving across to sit out a race.


People forget that wealthy drivers have been buying rides in F1 for years. So having paid drivers such as Karthikeyan or Petrov is nothing new.

As for the comment about a wealthy driver being WDC, arguably the best WDC, Senna, came from a wealthy family. So its not always a bad thing.

James - speaking of Senna, he once said of Bruno - "if you think I'm fast, you should see my nephew!". What happened in the meantime to Bruno's stock given Ayrton's early praise?

Warren Groenewald

Bruno stopped racing for a few years after his uncle died, and basically missed all the fine tuning of his craft during his development years. He only started racing again in his 20's.


Good news for Narain but bad news for F1 itself. Its a pity that most of the seats on the grid are sold to the sponsors and like Trulli said somewhere there are only about 8 meritorious seats (7 actually if Ferrari and Alonso have their way!) and all this talk about increasing the size of the grid has meant that mediocre drivers with huge backing just get racing seats. Its only a matter of time before we have someone from the Oil rich gulf region, China and the other economic superpowers having their drivers.

Dont know if this does their brand image any good outside their own country.

Bernie will not complain as he gets what he wants in the new venues but the sport as a whole slowly loses its appeal!


That is until a paydriver turns out to be amazing and blasts the WDC in his 2nd/3rd year at a big team. F1 has always been full of mid-level drivers. Bernoldi, Doornbos, Speed, Berti, Albers, Buemi, Badoer, Baumgartner and the list goes on and on and on. Seems the only thing that has changed is the money the teams are asking for.

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