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Indian Narain Karthikeyan returns to F1 with Hispania

Narain Karthikeyan
Karthikeyan has not raced in F1 since his 2005 stint with Jordan

Indian Narain Karthikeyan is to return to Formula 1 after a five-year absence to race for the Spanish Hispania team.

Karthikeyan, 33, who became the first Indian F1 driver when racing for Jordan in 2005, announced the move on Thursday before the team confirmed it on Friday.

Karthikeyan said: "I am confident that I still have the pace, the fitness and the will to succeed in Formula 1."

Team boss Colin Kolles said: "I am sure his experience and speed will be very useful for the team during the season."

India will also host its first F1 Grand Prix in October, and Karthikeyan says he is honoured to be able to race on home soil next season.

"I've been through a lot in my career but to be a part of the first-ever Indian Grand Prix will a special moment for me," Karthikeyan told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

"I've always seen cricketers playing in front of home fans and how pumped up the support gets them. To experience over 100,000 fans cheering for me will be a surreal experience.

I have always maintained that I have not given up on my desire to return to the pinnacle of world motorsport

Narain Karthikeyan

"It will also be a great moment for Indian fans who will have a home driver and home team [Force India] to cheer for.

Karthikeyan added: "The chance to race in the Indian Grand Prix will be great moment and is alone worth a return to F1. The closest I've come to experiencing home support was in the A1 series' race in Durban, where there is a large Indian diaspora."

The 33-year-old's compatriot Karun Chandhok raced for Hispania in 2010 while Brazilian Bruno Senna, Japanese Sakon Yamamoto and Austrian Christian Klien also drove for the team in their maiden F1 campaign.

A test driver for Williams in 2006 and 2007, Karthikeyan raced in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series from 2007 to 2009 before switching to the American Nascar Truck series and the Superleague Formula in Europe last year.

In 2009, he also drove for Kolles's sportscar team in the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Le Mans series. Kolles was also Jordan team manager in 2005.

Narain Karthikeyan in a Jordan in 2005
Karthikeyan spent one season racing in F1 for Jordan in 2005

Hispania were one of three teams new to F1 in 2010, finishing 11th of the 12 teams in the constructors' championship despite having the slowest car on the grid.

Karthikeyan's first appearance for the team is scheduled to be at the first pre-season in Valencia next month.

He will be at the wheel of the team's 2010 car. Their 2011 model will not be ready until just before the season.

Karthikeyan added: "It's been a while in the making, but I am extremely happy to be racing again in F1 in 2011," Karthikeyan said.

"I have always maintained that I have not given up on my desire to return to the pinnacle of world motorsport.

"I'm looking forward to racing for HRT, and to working again with Dr Colin Kolles. We have a long standing and excellent working relationship together."

Kolles added: "I have known Narain for a long time and he can revert to the experiences he gained when he was competing for Jordan Grand Prix and being test and reserve driver for Williams F1."

Hispania were dealt a blow in November when Toyota Motorsport ended a contract it had with Hispania to design and build their 2011 car because of a lack of payment.

Despite this, sources have told BBC Sport that the team's 2011 car will be designed by former Honda and Red Bull technical director Geoff Willis and it will be based on the designs Toyota Motorsport submitted to Hispania.

606: DEBATE
McFerrari

Willis worked with Hispania in 2010 on a consultancy basis.

Hispania have struck a deal with Williams to sell them transmissions.

The car is not expected to be ready for any of the four official pre-season tests but the team are aiming to give it a 'shakedown' test shortly before the first race, which is in Bahrain on 13 March.

Kolles said: "We will be at the first test in Valencia (on Feb 1) with the old car," he said. "Maybe we will have the new one for the last two tests.

"We are now in the process of building the new car. The monococques are about ready, the gearbox and engine and hydraulics are there and the aero package is being released."

There has been no word on the identity of Hispania's second driver.

Kolles said on Friday that Senna would definitely not be staying, telling Reuters: "I can definitely say that Mr Bruno Senna is not going to race for Hispania - 100% not."

Chandhok is also believed to be out of the picture.



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see also
Toyota severs ties with Hispania
16 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Williams agree Hispania link-up
02 Nov 10 |  Formula 1


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