Narain Karthikeyan has said it was an 'awesome feeling' to take in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in front of his home fans and he believes he proved 'a lot of points' by being competitive against his 'main rivals'.
Karthikeyan, who made a shock return to the F1 grid at the start of the year with HRT - more than five years on from his last competitive appearance at the highest level - was dropped ahead of the British GP in July in favour of highly-rated Red Bull protégé and Scuderia Toro Rosso reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo. Yet while Karthikeyna hadn't raced in F1 since the end of June - and despite the pressure of being the only Indian in the race, he didn't disgrace himself during his one-off return with the Spanish team at the all-new Buddh International Circuit.
Indeed in qualifying he was only fractionally slower than the man who replaced him for Silverstone - just 0.022 seconds between them - and in the race he actually finished one place ahead, although admittedly Ricciardo did have to make an extra stop due to a technical issue.
“I had a great grand prix and I really enjoyed myself, it was an amazing experience,” Karthikeyan said. “To finish 17th in my home grand prix is the best I could have wished for with the car we have and beating my teammate and one Lotus on the way makes it all the more satisfying.
“It's a shame I faced the penalty [for impeding Michael Schumacher in Q1 on Saturday] and, perhaps, we could have had a much better race without it. But I made a good start and then suffered some damage to the front wing but afterwards I picked up a good rhythm and was able to complete a good race. It's an awesome feeling to have completed the first ever Indian Grand Prix and to have been competitive with our main rivals, which proved a lot of points”.
HRT team principal Colin Kolles meanwhile added that he was 'satisfied' with Spanish squad's form in India and he felt both Karthikeyan and Ricciardo did well.
“The team has done a very good job this weekend and this is most important. Despite the penalties, we were going into the race with high hopes because both Narain and Daniel proved to have a pretty good pace,” Kolles continued. “They did a lightning start and saved the first lap incidents. Their pace was good and it was fantastic to see both HRT cars in the middle of the field. Because we ran on the dirty side of the track as a consequence of the blue flags, the tyre degradation became too big and we were forced to change our strategy.
“Additionally, Daniel had a problem on the rear right wheelhub assembly forcing him to have a longer additional stop. This prevented us from finishing further up but, overall, I am satisfied with how things went this weekend and I'm really happy for Narain because racing at a home GP for the first time is a once in a lifetime experience. I'm proud that he had a fantastic weekend and managed a great result.
“Daniel has done well too over the three days and he also did well in the race going one step further”.