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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Karthikeyan still linked with Force India

Narain Karthikeyan, Formula One’s first Indian driver, has come up again in relation to a Force India race seat for 2009.

When countryman Vijay Mallya purchased Spyker last season, Karthikeyan’s name was naturally linked to the team due to his nationality and experience.

However, while the team tested Vitantonio Liuzzi, Christian Klien, Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher, Franck Montagny, Giedo van der Garde and Roldan Rodriguez over the winter, Karthikeyan wasn’t included.

Mallya eventually settled on Giancarlo Fisichella and Spyker holdover Adrian Sutil, saying the current crop of Indian drivers were not qualified for the pinnacle of motorsport.

“I had to choose the drivers very carefully, because the team also needs to learn.” team owner was quoted by Crash.net in January. “The engineering team needs to benefit from the input of the drivers; it's not as if we have an engineering team that knows it all so we can just put an inexperienced driver in the car and say ‘good luck'. We had to choose drivers to fit the purpose, and no Indian driver fits the bill.”

Yet, due to a comment Mallya made earlier in the year, saying and Indian would “certainly” be included in the 2009 Force India lineup, Karthikeyan’s name continues to be linked to the team.

The Indian driver has declined to comment on his prospects.

“In Indian owning an F1 team is no ordinary feat. Vijay Mallya has done a great job. And only he can answer the question,” he told Newsindpress on Sunday.

His chances of a 2009 drive with Force India would seem remote, Mallya recently hinting he will be keeping the current lineup next season.

Additionally, Mallya’s relationship with GP2’s Karun Chandhok would seem to make the Red Bull-backed youngster the Indian frontrunner.

Labeled “The fastest Indian in the world,” Karthikeyan debuted with Jordan in 2005. His most recent F1 experience was as a test driver for Williams.

He also turned down an IndyCar drive with Red Bull Cheever Racing in 2005, and competes with the Team India A1GP entry, winning in China in 2007.

Photo of Narain Karthikeyan from narainracing.com Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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