Kumar Ram Narain Karthikeyan is the first
Formula One motor racing driver from India. He has previously competed in A1GP, and the
Le Mans Series. He made his Formula One debut in 2005 with the Jordan team, and was a Williams
F1 test driver in 2006 and 2007. Like several other former F1 drivers, Karthikeyan moved
to stock car racing and drove the #60 Safe Auto Insurance Company Toyota Tundra for Wyler
Racing in the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In 2011 he returned to F1 with the
HRT team, continued with the team in 2012 and was expected to drive for them in the
2013 season as well. However, HRT was not included in the FIA’s 2013 entry list, and
thus Karthikeyan was left without a drive. In 2013, Karthikeyan raced in the Auto GP
series, securing 5 wins and 4 pole positions with Super Nova Racing. For 2014, Karthikeyan
has signed up with Team Impul, to race in the Japanese Super Formula series. Early career
Karthikeyan was born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Karthikeyan did his schooling at Stanes
Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School in Coimbatore. Karthikeyan’s interest in motorsport began
at an early age, as his father was a former Indian national rally champion winning South
India Rally seven times. He is also related to the late S. Karivardhan, India’s most famous
racing driver until Karthikeyan came along. With the ambition of becoming India’s first
Formula One driver, Karthikeyan finished on the podium in his first ever race, at Sriperumpudur
in a Formula Maruti. He then went onto the Elf Winfield Racing School in France, showing
his talent by becoming a semi-finalist in the Pilote Elf Competition for Formula Renault
cars in 1992. He returned to India to race in Formula Maruti for the 1993 season, and
in the same year, he also competed in the Formula Vauxhall Junior championship in Great
Britain. This gave him valuable experience in European racing, and he was keen to return
for the following year. In 1994, he returned to the UK, racing in
the Formula Ford Zetec series as the number two works Vector driver for the Foundation
Racing team. The highlight of the season was a podium finish in a support race for the
Portuguese Grand Prix held at Estoril. Karthikeyan also took part in the British Formula Ford
Winter Series, and became the first Indian to win any championship in Europe.
In 1995, Karthikeyan graduated to the Formula Asia Championship for just four races. However,
he showed pace immediately and was able to finish second in the race at Shah Alam, Malaysia.
In 1996, he had a full season in the series and became the first Indian and the first
Asian to win the Formula Asia International series. He moved back to Britain in 1997 to
compete in the British Formula Opel Championship with the Nemesis Motorsport team, taking a
pole position and win at Donington Park and finishing sixth in the overall points standings.
In 1998, Karthikeyan made his debut in the British Formula Three Championship with the
Carlin Motorsport team. Competing in only 10 rounds, he managed two third place finishes
in the final two races of the season, at Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone, to finish 12th overall. He
continued in the championship for 1999, finishing on the podium five times, including two wins
at Brands Hatch. His season also included two pole positions, three fastest laps and
two lap records, helping him to sixth in the championship. He also competed in the Macau
Grand Prix, qualifying in sixth position and finishing sixth in the second race. Continuing
his drive in the British F3 Championship in 2000, he finished fourth overall in the standings,
and also took pole position and fastest laps in the Macau Grand Prix. He also won both
the International F3 race at Spa-Francorchamps and the Korea Super Prix.
Karthikeyan started 2001 in the Formula Nippon F3000 Championship, finishing the year amongst
the top ten. In the same year, he became the first Indian to ever drive a Formula One car,
testing for the Jaguar Racing team at Silverstone on 14 June. Impressed with his performance,
he was then offered a test drive in the Jordan-Honda EJ11 at Silverstone in September. Karthikeyan
again tested for Jordan, at Mugello in Italy on 5 October, finishing just half a second
off the pace off Jordan’s lead driver Jean Alesi.
In 2002, he moved into the Telefónica World Series with Team Tata RC Motorsport, taking
a pole position and setting the fastest non-Formula One lap time at the Interlagos Circuit in
Brazil. Continuing in the renamed Superfund Word Series in 2003, Karthikeyan won two races
and took three other podium positions on his way to fourth overall in the championship.
These results earned him another Formula One test drive, this time with the Minardi team.
He was offered a race drive for the 2004 season, but was unable to raise the necessary sponsorship
funds to seal the deal. During the year, he married Pavarna.
He continued in the Nissan World Series, renamed “World Series by Nissan”, in 2004, taking
wins in Valencia, Spain and Magny-Cours, France. Teams: Carlin Motorsport, RC Motorsport, Team
Impul, Williams F1 Team, Jordan Toyota Championships: British Formula 3, Formula
Nippon, Formula Nissan Formula One career
Jordan On 1 February 2005, Karthikeyan announced
that he had signed the preliminary deal with Jordan Formula One team and said that he would
be their main driver for the 2005 Formula One season, thus making him India’s first
Formula One racing driver. His partner was the Portuguese driver, Tiago Monteiro. Karthikeyan
completed the necessary testing distance of 300 km in an F1 car in order to gain his
superlicence at the Silverstone Circuit on 10 February.
In his first race, the Australian Grand Prix, Karthikeyan qualified in 12th position. After
a poor start which saw him drop to 18th place by the end of the first lap, Karthikeyan finished
in 15th, two laps behind winner Giancarlo Fisichella. He achieved his first points in
the 2005 United States Grand Prix under farcical circumstances as all but three teams pulled
out due to an argument over tyre safety. Karthikeyan finished fourth, finishing ahead of the two
Minardi drivers but behind team mate Monteiro. Apart from the USGP, Karthikeyan’s highest
finish was 11th place. In the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix free practice, he was fastest for
a long period of time and eventually qualified 11th. At the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix he qualified
in 15th place. In an unlucky end to his 2005 season, Karthikeyan crashed his Jordan into
a wall at the Chinese race, but was unhurt and able to provide an interview afterwards.
Because the Jordan team was taken over and renamed Midland for the 2006 season, the management
change prompted some doubt over Karthikeyan’s future at the team. Near the end of 2005,
Karthikeyan announced he would not be driving for Midland the following year allegedly due
to their demand that he pay as much as US$11.7 million to secure his seat on the team. He
mentioned that “anyway, being a test driver in a good car will allow me to showcase my
skills better”. On 8 December 2005, Karthikeyan tested for Williams at Spain and finished
a respectable fifth, outpacing the confirmed Williams second driver, Nico Rosberg in the
FW27C chassis, who finished ninth. On 27 January 2006, Williams confirmed Karthikeyan as their
fourth driver. He was to perform testing duties for the team alongside Alexander Wurz who
had been confirmed earlier as the team’s third driver. He was retained as a reserve test
driver for Williams alongside Kazuki Nakajima in 2007. Karthikeyan said he was blown away
by the difference between Formula One’s stragglers and a top-flight team.
HRT Later in 2007, he was linked with the Spyker
Formula One team after their driver Christijan Albers was fired, although Sakon Yamamoto
got the drive. Due to the withdrawal of support from Tata of Williams F1, Nakajima was given
the lion’s share of testing duties and Karthikeyan was sidelined.
When the Spyker F1 team was bought out by Vijay Mallya towards the end of 2007, Karthikeyan
had been linked with a drive with the new Force India Formula One team in 2008. However,
Karthikeyan did not even get to test for the team. Karthikeyan was also linked to a drive
with the Super Aguri team in January 2008, as one of the terms of an Indian consortium
investing in the team. The deal was not agreed and he continued to drive for A1 Team India.
Karthikeyan was India’s only Formula One driver until the 2010 season, when Karun Chandhok
signed to drive for the Hispania Racing F1 Team.
On 6 January 2011, Karthikeyan announced that he would drive for the Hispania team in the
2011 season, following five years away from active involvement in the championship. Karthikeyan
confirmed the deal via his Twitter page, saying it would “be a dream come true to race in
front of the home crowd in the Indian GP in October,” and adding that the support of financial
backers Tata Group had been “instrumental.” Driving for a small team, along with the increasing
reliability of modern Formula 1 cars, meant that Karthikeyan twice set the record for
the lowest placed finisher in a Formula 1 event. The first occurrence was during the
Chinese Grand Prix where the single retirement of Jaime Alguersuari meant Karthikeyan finished
in 23rd place, after he was overtaken by teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi on the final lap. However,
in the European Grand Prix there were no retirements meaning that Karthikeyan once again broke
the record by being the 24th car to cross the finish line.
On 30 June 2011, Karthikeyan was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo for the remaining races
of the season except the Indian Grand Prix but participated in Friday first practice
in Germany, Singapore, Japan and Korea. On 23 October 2011, it was confirmed that
Karthikeyan would replace Liuzzi for the Indian Grand Prix. Karthikeyan was outqualifed by
0.022 secs to qualify 22nd, however he started 24th and last due to blocking Michael Schumacher
in qualifying. Despite picking up damage in the first lap of the race, Karthikeyan managed
to beat Ricciardo by 31.8 seconds in the race to finish 17th. Liuzzi returned to replace
Karthikeyan ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. On 3 February 2012, it was confirmed that
Karthikeyan had again signed for the HRT team for the 2012 season partnering Pedro de la
Rosa. In the Australian Grand Prix, he and teammate Pedro de la Rosa were unable to qualify.
In Malaysia, both the HRTs managed to qualify, with Karthikeyan starting 23rd due to a 5-place
gear box penalty for Heikki Kovalainen, the start was wet and the HRTs gambled to start
the race on full wet tyres, whilst the other cars started on intermediate tyres. As the
rain increased that gamble paid off as other cars had to pit for full wets which promoted
Karthikeyan to a points-paying tenth place before the safety car then red flag came out
for heavy rain. At the restart, after a few laps more laps behind the safety car, the
track was dry enough for intermediate tyres and a few drivers pitted as the safety car
came back in, however Karthikeyan stayed out and was as high as 5th place at one point,
before McLaren’s Jenson Button crashed into him whilst they were racing for position.
Karthikeyan suffered damage however, but he pitted for intermediate tyres which dropped
him to the back of the field, bar teammate de la Rosa who had a served a drive-through
penalty. On lap 47, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel received a puncture after hitting Karthikeyan’s
front wing, whilst lapping him and Vettel was forced to pit and replaced the punctured
tyre which put Vettel down from 4th place, finishing 11th; Karthikeyan finished the race
in 21st, however he was given a 20 second post-race penalty for his part in the collision,
which meant Karthikeyan dropped to 22nd and last, behind de la Rosa.
Post-race, Vettel and Red Bull boss Christian Horner criticised Karthikeyan’s driving, with
Vettel calling Karthikeyan an “idiot”. Karthikeyan hit back at Vettel, calling him a “cry-baby”.
Later, Kartikeyan decided to call a truce with Vettel, stating his respect for Vettel’s
abilities and saying “I think we have to deal with it in a mature way and forget about it.”
Kartikeyan qualified last for the following 5 races however Karthikeyan only started 24th
and last twice due to other drivers picking up grid penalties. In China Karthikeyan finished
22nd, ahead of Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen. In Bahrain, Karthikeyan finished 21st and
was classified ahead of the Williams of Bruno Senna who retired due to brake issues. In
Spain Karthikeyan retired for the first race in the same after a wheel nut failure on lap
22 due to a botched pit stop. In Monaco Karthikeyan started 22nd, ahead of Peréz and the penalised
Pastor Maldonado and finished the race in 15th, classified ahead of McLaren’s Jenson
Button who retired after collision damage with Kovalainen. In Canada Karthikeyan retired
for the second time in the season after suffering a brake failure on lap 22 which made him spin
in turn 1 and stop later on in the lap, his team-mate Pedro de la Rosa retire with a similar
issue two laps later. At the European Grand Prix Karthikeyan for
the first time in the season qualified 22nd, ahead of the Marussia of Charles Pic, with
Timo Glock missing qualifying and the race due to illness. Karthikeyan finished the race
in 18th, behind Pic and de la Rosa but classified ahead of Lewis Hamilton who retired after
crashing out with two laps remaining. He finished the next 3 races as the final classified finisher
before retiring in Hungary due to broken suspension. He qualified last in Belgium, before running
as high as 13th during the race, with good pace, before crashing out on lap 30 in broken
suspension. He out-qualified his team mate de la Rosa for the first time this year at
Monza, but ended up finishing behind him in 19th. He out-qualified him again at Singapore,
this time by over a second, but crashed out at turn 16 on lap 30. He qualified in 24th
at Suzuka, having crashed in practice and therefore having to use an old-spec chassis
floor. He was running ahead of Pic and de la Rosa for quite some time until retiring
with vibrations on lap 32. He did a one-stop strategy in Korea and finished last in 20th,
almost a lap behind Pic in 19th. In India he once again finished last, running with
minor wing damage from a collision at the first corner. He retired in spectacular fashion
on lap 9 in Abu Dhabi after his steering broke and he was rear-ended by Nico Rosberg. He
qualified 24th in Austin amid fears that both he and his teammate would be outside the 107%
time after struggling to heat the tyres in practice on the brand-new circuit, and then
finished last in 22nd, also being accused by Vettel of holding him up when being lapped
and allowing Lewis Hamilton to take the lead. He qualified 23rd in Brazil and peaked as
high as 11th during the incident-packed opening stint of the race. He eventually dropped back
and finished last in 18th. He finished the season in 24th, with 0 points.
Other events and races IRL test
In 2005, Karthikeyan tested an Indy Racing League car for Red Bull Cheever Racing team
for the Indianapolis 500 race and was offered half a million US dollars as initial fee,
but the deal was not completed. A1 GP
In 2007 season Karthikeyan also drove for A1 Team India. He made his A1 GP debut in
New Zealand and he finished 10th in the sprint race and 7th in the Feature Race. Karthikeyan won the A1GP of Zhuhai for Team
India on 16 December 2007. This was India’s first A1GP win. Karthikeyan is also the first
to take pole position for India in the A1GP. He got pole in the feature race in Brands
Hatch in 2008. Karthikeyan won two feature races in the 2007–2008 season, including
the season finale at Brands Hatch starting from pole position. This helped India finish
in the top ten, ahead of such as Australia, Brazil, China and Italy.
The 4th season for Team India was disastrous as the team lost its title sponsor, which
resulted in severe financial constraints. On 3 May 2009 A1 Team India finished the season
with a podium finish in the Sprint Race at Brands Hatch. Karthikeyan qualified the A1
Team India car in 7th place on the starting grid for the race. The Feature Race ended
abruptly for Karthikeyan, as he was taken out by the spinning car of A1 Team China in
front of him on the first corner of the first lap.
The team finished 12th overall in the 2008–09 season.
24 Hours of Le Mans In the second week of March 2009, Karthikeyan
tested for the Kolles Le Mans Team. It was later confirmed that for the 2009 season,
he will be partnered by Christijan Albers. Team Kolles – headed by ex-Force India Team
Principal Colin Kolles – will be taking part in the championship with two Audi R10
turbo diesel machines. The car boasts a successful racing history with three Le Mans 24h victories
and 22 individual race wins to its name. Team Kolles joins the championship for the first
time in 2009. On 11 May 2009, Karthikeyan finished sixth
in his first ever Le Mans series race while driving for the Kolles Audi team in the second
round of the 2009 championship held at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
On 14 June 2009 Karthikeyan dislocated his shoulder in a fall just before the start of
the race. He had come up with strong performances in the practice and the qualifying, and was
scheduled to do the opening double stint. At 1:00 am the ACO organisation declared him
unsuitable to drive, even though the Audi doctor approved it.
NASCAR Karthikeyan made his NASCAR debut at Martinsville
Speedway on 27 March 2010 driving in the Kroger 250 Camping World Truck Series for Wyler Racing
in the #60 Safe Auto Insurance Company Chevrolet Silverado. Qualifying was rained out and the
field set by 2009 owner points, putting the first Indian-born driver to compete in NASCAR
in the 11th starting spot. After a slow start and coming to grips with driving a race truck
and racing on an American oval short track for the first time, Karthikeyan did manage
to put in a very respectable effort and finished on the lead lap in 13th place. Karthikeyan
went on to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Most Popular Driver Award for the 2010
season which was voted by the fans, becoming the first foreign-born driver to win the award.
Superleague Formula Karthikeyan drove for the PSV Eindhoven team
in SLF in 2010. He won the 2nd race at Brands Hatch, Great Britain and finished 16th in
the Championship on 288 points, taking part in six of the twelve race weekends.
Auto GP Karthikeyan drove for Zele Racing and Super
Nova Racing in the Auto GP series in 2013. After switching from Zele Racing to Super
Nova Racing, in the latter part of the series, he won 5 races and secure 4 pole positions
and in the process finished 4th in the championship & became the highest points scorer in the
second half of the season. Racing record
Career summary Complete Formula Nippon/Super Formula results
(key) * Season in progress.
Complete Formula One results (key)
Complete A1 Grand Prix results (key)
Superleague Formula (key)
24 Hours of Le Mans results Complete Auto GP World Series results
(key) Complete NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
See also Formula One drivers from India
References External links
Official website Narain Karthikeyan on Twitter
Narain Karthikeyan driver statistics at Racing-Reference