x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Realistic expectations for Narain Karthikeyan in India

The Indian driver just glad to be racing in front of his home fans this weekend.

Narain Karthikeyan will race in India for a second time on Sunday.
Narain Karthikeyan will race in India for a second time on Sunday.

GREATER NOIDA, INDIA // As the only native driver on the grid at this weekend's Indian Grand Prix, Narain Karthikeyan is well aware of the interest focused on him and his Hispania team.

The Spanish marque have brought a rare upgrade to the Buddh International Circuit as they try to provide unlikely cheer, while the 35 year old confirmed yesterday it is his intention to remain in Formula One next season rather than, as has been rumoured, making a move to Indycar.

Hispania are the quintessential backmarkers, fighting simply to qualify within a time that allows them to race rather than battling seriously with any of the other cars on track.

Karthikeyan's best finish this season came in Monaco when he finished 15th and yet he was still the slowest car that completed all 78 laps with nine of his competitors retiring.

Fortunately, although India's dalliance with F1 is only 12 months old, the level of knowledge and understanding of the sport's intricacies is impressive.

Rather than wildly high hopes, a sense of realism surrounds the local hero.

"In India, there is a lot of passion for Formula One and comparative to our neighbouring countries, such as China, the understanding of the sport is a lot better," Karthikeyan said. "It's going to be a good grand prix for us I hope.

"We have a small update, which is a rarity for our team at this stage of the season. Hopefully it'll work and we'll have a few more tenths [of a second].

"I know we need seconds, but it is what it is and I'm not complaining, I'm happy to be driving here and I'd like to stay here. That's the plan right now"

This weekend also marks the busiest week of the year for the Force India team, but the team owner Vijay Mallya has been prominent in local media for different reasons of late.

The self-proclaimed "King of Good Times" has failed to pay employees at his Kingfisher Airlines for the past seven months and last week a warrant was issued for his arrest over bounced cheques.

Mallya intends to attend this weekend's race, but has yet to meet drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta since they arrived in the country on Monday.

Di Resta said both drivers have been paid and that "everything seems normal".

"As far as I'm aware the two companies are separate," he said. "I'm employed to race a car. That's what I do.

"Anything else is not something I can influence; not something I've control over."

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