Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Narain Karthikeyan's First Stint in F1

Narain Karthikeyan’s 1st Stint in F1:
It was in 2005 when India got its first F1 driver when Narain Karthikeyan was selected by Jordan team to drive one of its two cars. The Jordan team had been bought over by Midlands.

Immediately, people started belittling Narain on the pretext that the Indian driver had brought in money via his sponsor the Tata Group. However, Narain gave ample evidence of his driving abilities when he qualified at 14th position ahead of his idol Michael Schumacher.

In the race, when the five red lights glowed the first off the blocks was Narain Karthikeyan showing tremendous reflexes as well as speed. Unfortunately, that Jordan was an ailing car without much of investments into its development. In an era, when in season testing was endless, Narain had could get very little time to test the car as Jordan was struggling financially.

In Imola, Narain had the seventh fastest lap in the race. An amazing feat considering the Jordan car was just a backmarker . In Japan, Narain was second in the practice which was headed by Giancarlo Fischichela driving a Renault. Narain had even beaten the Reinmeister Michael Schumacher who was excellent in wet conditions. Unfortunately, in 2005 there were not many wet races.

Narain, came fourth in the US GP, when only six cars with bridgestone  tyres participated. Michelin had declared that it dangerous to drive after Ralf Schumacher had crashed in the same spot as he had in the previous year, and other Michelin tyre user teams decided to boycott the race. Unfortunately, Narain had lost out to his team mate in that race when Narain locked his tyres.

After the season was over, Narain was offered a chance to race for Jordan again but he had declined. He joined Williams team as a test driver. In the practice before the season, Narain was just 0.2 seconds slower than Nico Rosberg who’s father Keke Rosberg had an excellent relation with Williams. Unfortunately for Narain, though he was fast and was highly rated by the Williams team for his excellent technical feedback, the team went in and drafted veteran Alex Wurz.

In the next year, Williams which was under increasing financial pressure bowed into the pressure from its engine supplier Toyota and took Kazuki Nakajima a Japanese driver as another test driver. The Williams team which had earlier resisted all attempts to allow Kazuki Nakazima’s fater to drive had now capitulated. Such was the decline of the once championship winning Williams team. It is no surpise that Narain hardly got any time in the car.

Narain became the first Indian to drive in Formula 1 and broke the mental barrier prevalent among people that Asian drivers can't do well in Formula 1. 

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