Narain Karthikeyan admits driving in front of a home crowd on Sunday will be a strange experience
Narain Karthikeyan hopes that the inaugural Indian Grand Prix will encourage more Indian youngsters to take up motor sport.
The HRT driver, who will return to the cockpit for his home race at the Buddh International Circuit on Sunday after being dropped seven races into the current seasom, first joined Formula 1 in 2005 with the Jordan team but has struggled to finance a long-term career.
“Driving in front of the home crowd cheering [me] on is going to be a surreal experience,” Karthikeyan said. “A once in a lifetime experience and I feel extremely fortunate.
“There is a huge buzz around the Grand Prix already and I’m sure that it’ll be a resounding success that will motivate more youngsters towards the sport and give us the future F1 drivers.”
After being dropped in 2006 when Jordan were purchased by Midland, Karthikeyan spent two years as a test and fourth driver with Williams, before leaving F1 to drive for Team India in A1 for three years.
Karthikeyan, who raced for HRT team principal Colin Kolles’s Audi team at Le Mans in 2009, rejoined the sport at the start of the current season with the struggling Spanish team. The 34-year-old was given significant help through personal sponsorship to make a return when younger, and arguably more capable drivers were available.
“Making it into F1 at the time I did was a seriously uphill task and the thought of being able to compete in the inaugural Indian GP was non-existent,” he added. “But it is finally here and I’ll be on the grid.”
Kolles added: “Despite not being the most popular sport in India, the excitement around the Grand Prix and the effort that everybody is doing, makes us think that it will be an extremely popular event.
“And for HRT, it is even more special. Having Narain Karthikeyan, the first Indian driver in F1 history, and Tata with us makes it feel like a home race.
“Narain is a talented driver and we are proud to be going down this path with him. For this single event, Narain will be driving alongside Daniel Ricciardo.
“I have asked Tonio Liuzzi to step aside for the Indian GP in order to allow driving programs with Ricciardo and Karthikeyan to be completed.
“I have to thank Tonio for his professional approach and attitude. After the positive performance the team had in Korea, I hope that we will keep on that line in India.
“Although Narain has already driven around the track and given us a positive feedback, we really don’t know what to expect but we are looking forward to it.”
Karthikeyan’s best result for HRT was 17th at the Monaco and Canadian grands prix, while his best-ever race result, excluding the farcical six-car race in Indianapolis in 2005 when he finished fourth, was 11th place in the Malaysian and Belgian races