Karthikeyan Feels the Pressure

Narain Karthikeyan admitted on Friday that his first experience of Formula One has been tough and warned his millions of fans not to expect what he cannot deliver

Karthikeyan Feels the Pressure

Karthikeyan claimed after the Australian Grand Prix that he was more popular than Michael Schumacher in his home nation and India's hopes of Grand Prix success rest firmly on his shoulders.

But he admitted: "It is very tough for me, I am pushed under some pressure, but I am used to that. I just don't want people to expect things from that I cannot deliver."

This weekend's race at Sepang will be one of his biggest challenges, not only because it is closest to his homeland but also because it is one of the toughest races on the calendar this year.

Temperatures rising towards 40 degrees Celsius and high levels of humidity in Malaysia this weekend will put a premium on physical fitness and Karthikeyan admits that is an area where he is lacking.

"My physical fitness is not yet at a peak, so I am not at my best," he said. "But I have to aim to complete the race with what I have. I am still learning the circuit and it is very different to Melbourne.

"My trainer and I worked for four hours daily on my cardio-ratio rhythm, building up neck muscles for the G-forces here and also just to adjust to the climate. But it is tough for the driver here!

"For me, there is a lot of pressure, of course. I am new. Everyone is watching. India has a lot of population and a lot of interest. But I believe I am fast enough and I can stay here in Formula One."

Karthikeyan, 27, is just happy to be on the Grand Prix grid after rising through the ranks and he is enjoying the atmosphere in Malaysia and the adulation he is receiving from his fans.

"I feel at home for this one alright," he said. "I have been more recognized too, by the Formula One fans in Kuala Lumpur and that is nice in a way, too.

"It's only about three hours from Madras to here. There is a big Indian community here and (the race has) been promoted a lot in India so we expect quite a few people coming here.

"But don't expect much. We are still using last year's car. I think we can finish races and may get some points, but we cannot fight for the top spots.

"Don't forget that when Nick Heidfeld drove for Jordan last year, he scored only three points. And he is a very, very good driver! So this season we shall see what happens for me."

Karthikeyan's entry to Formula One with Jordan came with support from three major Indian corporations - JK Tyres, Tata Industries and Bharat Petroleum.

He is the son of a former Indian national rally champion and close friend of Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. They race karts together and spend time in each other's company.

"He is a fan of Formula One and we are good friends," he said. "Sachin has given me advice. He told me just to concentrate on the job and not be bothered what happens in India."

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