A new management, new car, new team driver and many new things. And so, one believes it's going to be a season of hope and positive surprises for HRT F-1 driver Narain Karthikeyan when the Formula One championship opens at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne on March 16.
“I like the new set-up. Last year, the team was scattered. And I was in an awkward situation. Not any more. Everything is in place and in great shape,” said Narain in a chat with The Hindu.
“I am confident the team has a strong future under the new group headed by Team Principal Luis Perez Sala. The team knows what they are in for. And, I feel comfortable as well.”
“They have the funds to make this team a reality. Of course, we will not be fighting among the top ten. But, again in F1 anything can happen,” said the 35-year-old. HRT's assurance that he would be drive the full season is another positive development for Narain.
Narain was clear on why he wanted to race again. “I had two choices — to continue with my F-1 journey or call it quits. But, the long term plan of the team and the changes helped me take a decision.
“Why should Pedro leave McLaren for HRT? He understands his future will be bright with the new team. And, so do I,” explained Narain.
He was pleased to have the 40-year-old Pedro as his teammate. “I met him when I first did my F1 test with Jaguar. He was the main driver. He is a very good personality with more than a decade's experience under his belt.
“So, it's going to pretty interesting and easy to work. We are both going to help each other. There's no point in having an intense rivalry between us. It won't work. If we need to move forward, we need to shoulder each other's responsibility,” he added.
He said they would work in tandem and speed up the process to be more competent with the rest of the bunch. “We will have to motivate each other and push ourselves up.”
Will experience work wonders for the team this time? “Last year, HRT had the same 2010 car. And, there was no chance in being mega competitive. “This year, however, as a driver, I will enter the season with a positive frame of mind. We are yet to test the new car. But, we will accept and, more importantly, deliver with what we have,” said the Coimbatore-based driver.
What about the pressure? “It's going to be there for the smaller teams. But, let's face the fact. We certainly cannot match the speed of the Ferraris, or for that matter, the Mercedes. It's a huge task. It's like David fighting Goliath,” said Narain.
But when pointed out that David brought the giant down with just his sling-stone, Narain said: “if we are lucky expect such rare surprises too”.
He said in F-1, the sword is always on your head. “So, we will have to be constantly on our toes. But, I am happy to begin the new season with where I left last year — the Indian GP.”
Need for speed
He said his speed in the Indian GP turned the tables in his favour in securing the HRT seat for the second successive year. “The F-1 seat did not come on a platter. Five drivers with similar budgets had lined-up for the seat, but in the end my consistency and speed in my home GP got me through.”
“In a situation like this, the speed against your teammate [Daniel Ricciardo] is the gauging factor. I did well especially after a three-month halt. And, that instilled confidence in the new management that I can perform,” he added.
Working with Michael Schumacher's trainer proved to be a blessing for Narain last season. “Last year, I was working on my fitness with Balbir Singh (Michael Schumacher's trainer). He calmed me down and got the best out of me. I am seeking his help this year as well,” he said.
“The older you get the better the attention is required. There will be wear and tear but you still need to keep yourself in shape.
“Since, I've been in racing for long, I understand the fitness subject well. I will be fit as anybody at the top this season,” he added.
So, how long will he go on? “I can sit here in a relaxed manner and say I will drive till I'm 40. But, I don't believe in saying such things. I will stay as long as I can deliver,” said Narain.