Karthikeyan out to revive F1 hopes in Macau
India's top racing driver Narain Karthikeyan is hoping to revive his fading hopes of a Formula One drive at this weekend's Macau Formula Three Grand Prix, two years after his dreams of elite status were smashed on the streets of the former Portuguese colony.
Karthikeyan had set the lap record in qualifying for the 2000 event and was around four seconds ahead of the field during the race before driving over a bump and crashing out.
"I'll never forget that crash for the rest of my life. If I had stayed in the lead and won that race, I might have been a Formula One driver by now," said Karthikeyan.
Karthikeyan's Carlin Motorsport team partner that season was current Jordan Formula One driver Takuma Sato of Japan, who won the Macau race last year.
The Macau Grand Prix is seen as a stepping stone for future Formula One drivers, with names such as Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher having graduated from the narrow, twisting Guia street circuit.
Karthikeyan, 25, has been racing in the inaugural Nissan World Series circuit this year for the TATA RC Motorsport team, competing against the likes of former Formula One driver Ricardo Zonta.
In 2001, he had limited success driving in the Formula Nippon series in Japan and also had test drives with Formula One teams Jaguar and Jordan, the first Indian to get behind the wheel of an F1 car.
Karthikeyan will again drive for top British Formula Three team Carlin at this weekend's Macau Grand Prix, partnering Jaguar's Australian F1 test driver James Courtney.
The third driver in the Carlin team is South African Alan van der Merwe. All three will drive Dallara F302 Honda-Mugen cars.
Team chief Trevor Carlin said that he has high hopes for the 49th Macau Grand Prix after Sato won last year's event.
"The competition is going to be tough but we will be competitive," Carlin told Reuters by telephone from the team headquarters in Aldershot, England.
"We wanted the best drivers available and we got them. Narain is good enough to drive in Formula One and we are pleased to have him on our team."
The Macau GP is an excellent showcase for F1 aspirants as, with Formula One and other major world championship series wrapped up for the year, there are no events competing for attention and many F1 team managers will be in Asia's gambling oasis for Sunday's race.
"I really want to do well in this race," added Karthikeyan. "I had one chance and failed to take it. I don't want to waste this second chance."
Carlin's main competition at Macau this weekend is expected to come from the Prema Powerteam with Frenchman Renaud Derlot at the wheel, the Arta-Signature-Elf team and the Alan Docking Team featuring British Formula Three champion Robbie Kerr.