Karthikeyan Hopeful of Longer F1 Run

Narain Karthikeyan, India's first Formula One driver, is hopeful his promising debut with Jordan will eventually lead to a longer run in the sport

Karthikeyan Hopeful of Longer F1 Run

Karthikeyan, 28, has drawn huge interest, particularly in cricket-crazy India, since being signed up by the British-based team last month.

He came 15th on his debut in the Melbourne Grand Prix and was 11th last weekend in Malaysia, considered encouraging for a rookie driver in his first two races for a team which finished ninth out of 10 teams in 2004.

"It was thought to be impossible. I made it possible," a beaming Karthikeyan said in a video conference on Tuesday on his first visit home since his Formula One entry.

"I'm just so happy to be here after doing well in the first two races," he said. "I have set realistic goals because I don't have the package to challenge the big ones."

Bringing his car home in the first two races had hugely boosted his confidence, he said.

"So far I have coped with it and the car is very reliable," he said. "Some new aerodynamic parts will be added later on and we will make improvements."

Both Jordan drivers are rookies, Portugal's Tiago Monteiro being the other.

"If I keep finishing, there will be some races where we will get the opportunity to score points. If I keep the momentum going, I will be on the wanted list for 2006."

Good Job

The driver was hopeful of improving as he gains experience, particularly in Europe where he was familiar with some of the tracks during his days in Formula Three. He said his biggest boost so far has been encouragement from his idol, seven-time World Campion Michael Schumacher.

"Michael is a special driver, he is my hero. When he said I had done a good job, I felt really proud."

Karthikeyan has received huge support from Indian fans who thronged both the opening races.

"Every time you go to the race track, you see all those flags of other nationalities, and then the Indian flag. You feel very proud."

Karthikeyan required huge sponsorship from three Indian companies to secure the Jordan drive until the season end. His manager Piers Hunnisett, however, said he has been able to keep new sponsors as well as bigger teams interested.

"Hopefully by year-end other teams will be interested," Hunnisett said. "He has not made many mistakes and has beaten his team mate in both races. That is the first thing you need to do in F1."

The next race will be held in Bahrain on April 3.

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