Melbourne: India’s Narain Karthikeyan will kick off his third Formula One season in Melbourne Sunday with some trepidation. For the second successive year the qualifying race will also be his practice session. Nevertheless he expects to finish the 20-race card strongly.
Karthikeyan and his team HRT missed the free practise sessions as they could not manage to get their new car ready in time for the final pre-season testing in Barcelona earlier in the month.
Friday’s first practice will be the first time Karthikeyan will be having a feel of the car on Pirelli tyres. The 35-year-old, who returned to F1 after five years last year, goes into the weekend with 10 laps under his belt of the Filming Day since the Indian Grand Prix in last October.
Karthikeyan, in an interview to IANS, chose to look at the positives saying the F112 is a step up from last year’s machine and that his focus will be to clear the fear of the “unknown” in the initial rounds.
Q: What exactly the team and you are looking for the season’s inaugural race at Albert Park, finishing ahead of rival Marussia or to get closer to Caterham?
A: The picture is not very clear heading into Melbourne, so our first objective will be to maximise our performance potential. We have no control over what others do but we can ensure that we extract the best from the car in the given circumstances. Come to think of it, we will be testing the car here. Despite the running during the filming day (in Barcelona), we have a fair amount of work as far as tyres and setup is concerned. Once the first few flyaways (races) are done with, we will have a much better picture as to where we stand.
Q: Since you will be testing the car and tyres for the first time, how much track time would you be needing to get the hang of it?
A: The new car and the new tyres will come together for the first time in Melbourne, so I reckon the practice sessions should be enough to a grip over things. It isn’t about mere driving either, as we will have to the optimum use of test variables like effects of fuel load, tyre degradation and so on. You don’t have the luxury of taking your time to get back into rhythm like we do in practice. The time is too short.
Q: Without working enough on the car, how would you cope with 58 laps at Albert Park?
A: I believe the package is reliable, considering that everything functioned as expected during the short mileage we did on the filming day. It is especially positive, since it is an all-new car built from a clean sheet of paper in three months time and one could say the new team is a very professional unit. Some niggles will crop up once hard-running starts on the race weekend, which is normal for any brand new car.
Q: Will you be looking to finish ahead of your more experienced teammate Pedro de la Rosa?
A: He is a highly-experienced F1 driver and while it would be great to finish ahead of him, that isn’t my sole aim. The point is to ultimately have both drivers pushing each other in a way that it ends up benefiting the team. He has developmental experience from a front-running team (McLaren) so I am looking forward to working with him.
Q: How do you compare the current situation with the forgettable Australia GP last year?
A: We are definitely better off this time. Last year the team got zero running Friday, did five laps in FP3 on Saturday and failed to qualify for the ace subsequently. So, I am eager to etch out that memory and set a solid baseline for the season to come.
Q: How do you view your third season?
A: I am a lot more confident than I was 12 months ago. Obviously, I am extremely happy to be driving in F1 and hope to have the strongest season yet.