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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Racing for last position.....

Only the best drivers in the world compete in Formula 1. Never have doubted that. Never will. The capabilities needed to make it to the top tier of racing drivers and drive one of those machines around a track is no mean feat and way beyond normal average humans. In this respect, all those drivers who have walked the pit lanes and burnt tyre and clutch, to fight for pole position and race victory, are heroes.

And of course, when it came time to see my compatriot, Narain Karthikeyan graduate from the feeder series to the top pedestal in the Jordan Formula 1 team, I could not be more proud. I have been a Formula 1 fan since 1997 and a fanatic since 1998 when Mika Hakkinen started his campaign en route to 2 world titles. He still remains my hero and will always be, despite the amount of brilliance to be found in today's crop of F1 drivers. In that same context, I have followed Narain's vicissitudes with great interest. He started where most drivers start, the minnow teams - Jordan and HRT - along with his affairs with IRL, A1 GP, NASCAR etc.

The thing that always fascinated me about these F1 gladiators, is their will to win. Mark Webber came from Minardi, a team known for always being bog last. Today he is a driver for Red Bull, a top flight team, that has just won the Constructors Championship for the third time running. Kimi Raikkonen came from Sauber, Michael Schumacher came from Jordan and Benetton, Mika Hakkinen came from Lotus. Basically, minnows of their times. And all of them, made it great. Made an impact on the world of racing and an enormous impression on me.

Now, I turn to a race that was as disgraceful as it was hilarious. I am referring to the 2005 USGP at Indianapolis. There were two tyre suppliers back then - Michelin and Bridgestone. All the cars running Michelin rubber  (7 teams, 14 cars) had to pull out because of a problem with the tyre construction. Which leaves 6 cars on the grid to run the race and fight for that illusion of victory. And the teams were perfectly stratified - Ferrari - Tier 1; Jordan - Tier 2; Minardi - Tier Absolute Last.

So predictably, Michael Schumacher takes the cake, Barrichello follows home in second, Tiago Monteiro came third followed by Karthikeyan. The exact running order at the start of the race. And that's my point. The un-spectacular nature of Narain Karthikeyan. He could never take the fight to his team mate at Jordan in 2005, presently in HRT or the other series he has ever raced at. True, he has taken victories and pole positions, but those have been few and far between and none in F1.

Vijay Mallya, in so many words, said this long back. When asked if Team Force India will have an Indian driver, he shot straight back saying, there was no driver good enough. And that  is the bitter truth. Karun Chandhok has not graduated to F1. And Narain Karthikeyan is mediocre. In that hallowed world of F1, he is as bland as beige and as devoid of zing as grey porridge. It is sad this. And so, I guess, "Karthikeyan comes in in the last position" is an inevitability. 

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