There is no harsher environment than the rear of the Formula 1 grid when it comes to the piercing glare of public perception.
Those struggling at the back in sub-par machinery are badly exposed. Doing a great job might leave you on the 11th row of the grid, and a mediocre job right at the back, but to the watching world you are often dismissed as a no-hoper. Usually, you will only get air-time when being lapped or something has gone wrong, making you appear more of a nuisance than a true competitor.
That has been the lot of Narain Karthikeyan throughout the majority of his 27-race grand prix career. He has battled with machinery capable only of scoring points in exceptional circumstances with his only mark on the scoreboard coming courtesy of his fourth place for Midland-owned Jordan in the six-car 2005 United States Grand Prix. On his return last year with HRT, a trio of 17th places were as good as it got.
So to re-sign for a team that is likely to spend 2012 striving in the same region of the grid might seem akin to masochism. But Karthikeyan doesn't see it that way. He isn't fooling himself about the scale of the challenge ahead. But at the very least, he wants to show people that he is capable of being a very fast grand prix driver.
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