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Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
15/08/2013

 

Biography

 

The son of a former Indian rally champion, in 1992 Narain was sent to the famous ELF Winfield Racing School in France, which includes Alain Prost amongst its former pupils.

A couple of years later Narain became the first Indian to win the Formula Asia championship.

In 1994 he contested Formula Ford Zetec, moving on to Formula Ford the following year. The youngster made history by winning the British Formula Ford Winter series, in addition to making it to the podium for the support race to the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril.

For 1997, the twenty-year-old headed to the UK to contest the British Formula Opel Championship. One of several strong performances saw him lead the Donington round from flag to flag.

In 1998 he stepped up to Formula Three, his best results being third at Spa Francorchamps and Silverstone, two of the fastest tracks on the calendar, which in turn led to him being called the 'fastest Indian in the world'.

He remained in British F3 in 1999, finishing sixth in the championship courtesy of five podiums, which included two wins at Brands Hatch.

In 2000 he finished fourth in the British F3 championship in addition to winning the prestigious International F3 race at Spa a feat previously achieved by his hero, Ayrton Senna, in addition to Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard. He also won the Korea F3 Super Prix.

In 2001, Narain tested for both Jaguar and Jordan, both tests taking place at Silverstone. Jordan was so impressed that it invited the Indian back for a second run at Mugello.

In addition to his F1 tests, Narain also contested the Formula Nippon Championship.

In 2002, he was one of the fastest drivers in the highly competitive Telefonica World Series, claiming one pole position and posting the fastest ever (non F1) lap time at Interlagos.

In 2003, following a test with Minardi, Narain was offered a race seat but was unable to provide the required funding. Instead he contested the Super Fund World Series, finishing fourth in the championship with 5 podium finishes.

In 2004 he contested the Nissan World Series, winning two rounds.

The funding problems that kept him out of the Minardi drive in 2003 were resolved for 2005, and with a number of blue-chip Indian corporations on-board Narain was able to obtain a race seat with Jordan, which by now had been bought by the Russian-owned Midland Group.

We wrote at the start of the 2005 season that it would be a 'baptism of fire' for the Indian, and so it turned out to be.

Although there is no doubting his pace, Narain, certainly in 2005, tended to overdrive the car, and all too often this resulted in tears. That said, the (pitch) sensitivity of the EJ15 didn't help.

In the wet practice session in Melbourne, admittedly helped by his Bridgestones, Narain was only bettered by Michael Schumacher, while at Imola he set the twelfth fastest lap of the race.

As any Brazilian racer will tell you, carrying the hopes of your nation is a massive burden, and there were times that Narain appeared to crack under the pressure of representing his country.

Yes there were mistakes, silly mistakes, but there were also moments of great talent.

It has been said that F1 needs Narain because it needs India. Sorry, but in our humble opinion a driver should be in F1 on merit not because of his nationality, and that applies to all drivers of all nationalities.

For a while it looked as though the Indian would be missing from the 2006 paddock as the drive and test drive vacancies were gradually filled. However, there was talk that WilliamsF1 - according to some sources, strapped for cash - might offer some hope, having tested the youngster at Jerez in December.

That hope appeared to be dashed in early January, when, in a shock move, the Grove outfit announced that it had recruited the highly-talented Alex Wurz from McLaren, sending out a clear message that money wasn't a problem and that - contrary to what sceptics believed - there was life after BMW.

Then, just hours before the launch of its 2006 contender, the FW28, WilliamsF1 announced that Narain had been signed as its second test driver.

"Narain's brief period in the car in December, during which he provided valuable feedback, made a very distinct impression on our engineers," said Frank Williams. "Having a year's GP racing and testing to his credit is also advantageous for us."

At the time, a press release, issued hours after Narain's signing, in which a major sponsorship deal with Indian conglomerate TATA was announced, naturally prompted talk that money was the main influence in the British team's decision to sign Narain. However, the fact that he was subsequently retained for 2007, with no apparent involvement from TATA, suggested that we were all being overly sceptical.

In 2006, Narain enjoyed twelve outings with Williams, however, in 2007 the Indian barely figured in the team's plans, taking part in just one test (Valencia) where he completed 60 laps. Instead, when a test driver was used, it was Kazuki Nakajima who was called into action, and it was the Japanese youngster who subsequently replaced Alex Wurz in the season finale.

When Vijay Mallya bought Spyker in late 2007, re-naming the former Jordan/Midland outfit Force India, it was widely assumed that Narain would be an obvious shoe-in as partner for Adrian Sutil, however, he didn't even get a test drive. He was also linked with the ill-fated Super Aguri team, but that too came to nothing.

Over the next couple of years, Narain, clearly aware his F1 career was at an end, went in search of pastures new. He continued in A1 GP, enjoying wins at Shanghai and Brands Hatch.

In 2009, he raced for the Colin Kolles Audi Team in the Le Mans Series and the Le Mans 24-Hour race, becoming the first ever Indian to race in the legendary event.

2010 was one of his busiest years ever, competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the USA, as well as in the Superleague Formula in Europe, where he won a race at Brands Hatch. Incidentally, his win there has extended his unique record at the Kent track, where he is the only driver to win a race in every series in which he has competed.

In early January 2011, Hispania stunned race fans, the paddock and media alike when they named Narain as one of their drivers for the forthcoming season.

In a year in which India was to host its first Grand Prix, the decision owed a lot to commercial considerations, namely his sponsor TATA, not to mention his long relationship with Colin Kolles.

Just three years out of F1 proved difficult for Michael Schumacher, how Narain would fare after a five-year absence, not to mention the limitations of the Spanish team, meant that few expected much of the likeable Indian. Certainly, few envied him.

The F111, was launched on the penultimate day of the final pre-season test in Barcelona - what would have been the Friday of the Bahrain GP had it not been cancelled - but it didn't run because Spanish customs hadn't cleared the release of the dampers for the cars. Or so the Spanish team said.

The cars subsequently arrived in Melbourne in pieces, and only a superhuman effort by the crew enabled Narain to take part in the final minutes of the Saturday practice session. However, still lacking a 2011-spec nose and front wing - which had not passed the mandatory crash tests - both drivers were over two seconds off the pace in qualifying and therefore failed to qualify having fallen foul of the 107% rule.

Things improved by the time the circus arrived in Malaysia, indeed there were even a few updates, allowing both drivers to qualify, albeit for the back row of the grid.

Other than Monaco, where he and his teammate failed to post a time - Liuzzi due to damage sustained during free practice and Narain due to a gearbox and rear suspension failure - the Indian usually qualified twenty-third or twenty-fourth, though in Spain he reached the giddy heights of twenty-second.

Improved reliability meant Narain usually made it to the flag however, he never once finished ahead of his teammate except when Liuzzi was forced to retire.

Ahead of the British Grand Prix, the team announced that it had agreed a deal which would see Red Bull test and reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo join, the Australian taking Narain's seat alongside Liuzzi. However, the Indian was pretty much guaranteed that he would still race in his home event.

Sure enough, for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix Liuzzi was dropped in favour of the local boy and Narain responded by finishing seventeenth, one place ahead of Ricciardo, though the Australian rookie had out-qualified him.

While Narain gave a fairly good account of himself, one had to wonder whether he and TATA considered it was worth all the money and effort. The answer came on February 3, when it was announced that the Indian, now 34, would be teammate to 41-year-old Pedro de la Rosa at HRT for 2012.

In many ways the writing was on the wall when the team failed to attend pre-season testing with its new car having failed to pass the mandatory FIA tests. The team did finally make it to Barcelona with the F112 but only for a day of promotional filming.

Consequently, it was off to Australia for the season opener and a car that hadn't covered any serious mileage. No surprise therefore that failing to qualify within the required 107% the team was sent for an early shower.

Narain qualified last for the following five races (bar in Spain, where Lewis Hamilton was excluded from qualifying, and in Monaco where Sergio Perez crashed without setting a time) however he only started 24th and last twice (in Bahrain and Canada) due to other drivers picking up grid penalties.

In China Narain finished 22nd, ahead of Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen, while in Bahrain, he finished 21st and was classified ahead of the Williams of Bruno Senna who retired due to brake issues.

In Spain he retired for the first time after a wheel nut failure on lap 22 due to a botched pit stop. In Monaco Karthikeyan started 22nd, ahead of Perez and the penalised Pastor Maldonado, ultimately finishing the race in 15th, ahead of Jenson Button who retired after collision damage with Kovalainen. Thereby achieving HRT's best result of the season, Narain's quickest lap was within 0.3 secs of Button's.

In Canada he retired for the second time after suffering a brake failure on lap 22 which made him spin in turn 1 and stop later on in the lap, his team-mate retired with a similar issue two laps later.

At the European Grand Prix Narain for the first time qualified 22nd, ahead of the Charles Pic, with Timo Glock missing qualifying and the race due to illness. He finished the race in 18th, behind Pic and de la Rosa but classified ahead of Hamilton who retired after crashing out with two laps remaining.

Narain finished the next three races as the final classified finisher before retiring in Hungary due to broken suspension. He qualified last in Belgium, before running as high as 13th during the race, with good pace, before crashing out on lap 30 with a broken suspension.

He out-qualified his team mate for the first time at Monza, but ended up finishing behind him in 19th. He out-qualified him again in Singapore, this time by over a second, but crashed out at turn 16 on lap 30. He qualified in 24th at Suzuka, having crashed in practice and therefore having to use an old-spec chassis floor. He was running ahead of Pic and de la Rosa for some time until retiring with vibrations on lap 32.

Running a one-stop strategy in Korea he finished last, almost a lap behind Pic in 19th. In India he once again finished last, running with minor wing damage from a collision at the first corner.

He retired in spectacular fashion on lap 9 in Abu Dhabi after his steering broke and he was rear-ended by Nico Rosberg. He qualified 24th in Austin amid fears that both he and his teammate would be outside the 107% time after struggling to heat their tyres in practice on the brand-new circuit. He finished the race last, accused by Vettel of holding him up when being lapped and allowing Lewis Hamilton to take the lead.

Qualifying 23rd in Brazil, the season finale, Narain ran as as high as 11th during the incident-packed opening stint of the race. He eventually dropped back and finished last in 18th.

In November, months after the team's much trumpeted move to its new headquarters at the Caja Magica in Madrid, it was revealed that owner Thesan Capital was in talks with several parties regarding to the sale of the team. Shortly after it was announced that the team was being put up for sale and that a new owner had to be found by 30 November - the date by which entry fees for the 2013 season were due - or else exclusion from the sport.

Thesan Capital failed to find a buyer and as a result the team was duly omitted from the FIA's 2013 entry list. It was subsequently reported to be in liquidation.

While teammate de la Rosa has secured a development role at Ferrari, it is not yet clear what Narain's plans are for 2013 however, it is highly unlikely that they will include Formula One.

Statistics - at the end of 2012 Season

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 3
Grand Prix: 46
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0

Best result in 2012: 15th (Monaco)
Best qualifying 2012: 22nd (2 times)
Worst qualifying 2012: 24th (11 times)

2012: Out-qualified Pedro de la Rosa 3 times
2012: Out-qualified by Pedro de la Rosa 17 times

2012: Completed 897 out of 1134 laps (79.1%)
2011: Finished 12 times from 19 starts (63%)

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