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Interview with Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan, India's first Formula One driver... 16 Feb 2005

Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Jordan Toyota EJ15. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 15-18 February 2005. World © Bumstead/Sutton  Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Jordan Toyota EJ15. Jordan Toyota Testing, Silverstone, England, 9 February 2005. World © McNeil/Sutton Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Jordan Toyota EJ15. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 15-18 February 2005. World © Bumstead/Sutton Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan. © Midland Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Jordan. Jordan Toyota Testing, Silverstone, England, 9 February 2005. World © McNeil/Sutton

Formula One newcomer determined not to disappoint

With less than three weeks to go before his Formula One race debut at the Australian Grand Prix, Narain Karthikeyan spoke to formula1.com about the challenge that lies ahead.

Q: As the first Indian Formula One driver a whole nation is watching you. How does it feel to be under such a massive spotlight?
Narain Karthikeyan:
I am proud that the eyes of millions of people are on me, and I feel the obligation not to disappoint. But I have realistic targets and so I am sure I will achieve them.

Q: Will your involvement in the pinnacle of motorsport be a ticket for India getting more involved in Formula One racing – from triggering talents to being host to an Indian Formula One race in the near future?
The Indian racing scene is growing rapidly – on all levels. Talents are being spotted, nurtured through karting and minor racing leagues to finally follow in my footsteps. In this I might be the spearhead of a development that has contaminated the Indian subcontinent with the Formula One bug, as it were. As for the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China – the fastest growing markets today – two of them already have Formula One races – so the natural thing would be that Russia and India will follow. And I am sure this will happen in the next two to three years.

Q: You joined a team that has been revamped dramatically in the last couple of weeks – and that has signed two newcomers – Tiago Monteiro and you – to add another page to the team history. How do you feel about this ‘all-new’ situation?
Why should ‘new’ automatically be a synonym for not being successful? We are very realistic about the goals we want to reach this year. And we are very focused in getting there at the end of the season. And that new people made it to the paddock is a sign that Formula One is not dead but still able to re-invent and transform itself to new situations. Some years ago Formula One racing was a heavily European dominated sport with some excursions to ‘exotic’ places – it was then already called the Formula One ‘world’ championship without being it in reality – now it is moving to be a real global sport – not only in viewers but in being host to races on a global scale.

Q: You have just done your first full test session – 80 laps. How did you feel when getting out of the car?
True, 80 laps were the most I did so far behind the wheel of an F1 car. It was mesmerizing – and I realised that I have a lot to learn in a very short time. And that I am prepared for that – in every aspect. That includes physical and mental fitness and the concentration to listen to the car and being able to transport it to my engineers. I am very much looking forward to the Melbourne grid in less than three weeks.

Q: What to you expect from your first race?
To be able to bring the car home – to make it through the whole distance. I am not going to get involved in the ‘where will you finish at the end of the season’ game. We will work hard and do our best – and I am sure our partners will do the same. I am 100 percent confident that the package is right – otherwise it would be a waste of time.

Q: You and team mate Tiago Monteiro have known each other for quite some time, racing against each other in a diverse range of series. Now you are wearing the same colours. The saying goes that your team mate is always your number-one challenger. How do you see things working in the 19 races ahead?
True, that the team mate is always your first challenger – but also the guy to push the development of the car further. I expect a good rivalry on the inside and a combined attack on the outside.

Q: Some say a driver’s helmet design reveals something of his mind-set. What does your helmet reveal about you?
It is a personnel interpretation of the Indian flag. To signal at first sight where by heart belongs.