His name is Narain Karthikeyan and, as the tabloid sensationalists at Planet F1 will confirm, he’ll be driving for Hispania Racing Team in 2011.

Narain hails from India, a country which hosts its first Grand Prix later this year, and comes with backing from the Tata Group, a large conglomerate which isn’t short of a few pence.  Commercial appeal coming in ahead of talent, you might feel, particularly when you consider that his first spell in F1, with Jordan in 2005, ended like this.

There’s undoubtedly some truth to that.  Money talks at all times, particularly when you’re in HRT’s position, which is the position of not having any.  It’s a little unfair on Karthikeyan to dismiss him as your average pay driver, though.  He won races in British Formula 3 when it was still a noted proving ground for young talent and did a fine job in two seasons of what’s now called Formula Renault 3.5 on his way up the ladder.  For the first few races of his spell at Jordan he made the EJ15 look driveable, though the remainder of the year was spent demonstrating at length that it wasn’t.  When it didn’t matter, Narain usually had the legs on his team mate Tiago Monteiro.  When it did, in the wet at Spa and during the farcical US race when only 6 cars took the start, the Portuguese driver took the headlines, the points, a place on the podium at Indianapolis and a race seat for 2006.  It’s never enough to be quietly impressive while nobody’s looking.

Since then, Karthikeyan has acquitted himself well during a stint as a Williams test driver, won races for Team India in A1GP – the self-styled and now defunct World Cup of Motorsport – and performed respectably in the NASCAR Truck Series.  In amongst all of that, he’s also driven in sportscar racing for Colin Kolles, who happens to be HRT’s team principal.  The first name on your list of prospective drivers?  No.  Fortunate enough to know the right people and have plenty of sponsorship?  Yes.  Worth another chance all the same?  I reckon so.

The identity of Karthikeyan’s team mate for 2011 is the subject of some speculation, ‘some’ in this case meaning ‘a fairly small amount’.  Of their 2010 drivers, Karun Chandhok doesn’t want the drive, Bruno Senna won’t be offered it and Christian Klien is deserving of far, far better.  Kolles has spoken of targeting a big name, intimating that there are men with contracts to race in 2011 who won’t in fact end up doing so.  It’s not easy to think of any particular driver that fits the bill – that would require an ongoing contractual saga at a mid-grid team, after all – but having Looked Into things with my Usual Zip, Zing and Investigative skills, I’ve managed to come up with one.

  1. […] long enough, he’s bound to get one right eventually.”  As predicted at the bottom of this post here, Italian driver Vitantonio Liuzzi will partner Narain Karthikeyan at Hispania Racing Team in […]

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