Shanghai:For motor sports enthusiasts, Formula One may be the Real McCoy but ace Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan believes A1 Grand Prix's six-year deal with Ferrari will throw a real challenge to F1.
Here for the penultimate Grand Prix of the season at the Shanghai International Circuit this weekend, Karthikeyan said A1 GP was catching up with the F1 race and would gain more popularity in the years to come.
"I think so (A1 GP will catch up with F1), more so in the next year because of the Ferrari deal. Ferrari and motor sport go a long way in history. Nowhere in the world are 24 nations battling it out in Ferrari cars. (The A1) championship straightaway goes high profile. It will have much more media attention and more viewers," Karthikeyan told PTI here on Friday.
Karthikeyan said A1 GP's unique format of pitting a country against other countries and the deal with Ferrari would herald a new era for motorsport in a country like India.
"They (A1) don't go and try competing with F1. It's two totally different levels. This concept is clicking with the fans. It will get much bigger in the years to come," he said.
Karthikeyan is hopeful that sooner than later the all-Ferrari A1 race will debut on Indian soil.
"The plan to get A1 to India is 2009-10 for the race to happen, that's the date they have set. Hopefully A1 GP race will be there with all the Ferrari cars," he said.
"I think with the Ferrari car it will be very close. With the new car, it will be very different. As a driver you have to adapt to different challenges," Karthikeyan said.
The first Indian to race in Formula One, Karthikeyan said he still hopes to get back to the F1 scene whenever he gets a chance.
"It's open at the moment. The dream is always there to drive in F1 also, but I am looking forward to the Ferrari challenge (in A1) and get India into a better position for the years to come."
Though Karthikeyan could not manage a seat in the Vijay Mallya-owned Force India Formula One team, the ace driver reckons an Indian would be there in that team some day.
"They have contracts with the Europeans. Their intention was to have Indians, but they will do it in a manner," he said.
Looking at the penultimate race of 2007-08 season this weekend, Karthikeyan said a strong finish would help Team India achieve a better position in next year's race.
"We have had the best season in three years in A1 for Team India. It has been quite good sometimes. Sometimes the results have not been there. It is a combination of many things. We are trying to improve all the time. Until you are in the number one position, you have the scope to improve.
"It is a circuit where I have driven last time as well. So I think we know what we need. Our goal is to finish in the top six. If that happens, you get more points, and move up the championship," he said.
"We have four races (in last two competitions) and a total of 60 points. The more we get the better."
Karthikeyan, who won the A1 race in Zuhai, China, this year, said the Indian team had come a long way and could make it among the elite sides.
"I think overall from what Team India was in 2005-06, we have taken a long step forward. A country like USA hasn't won a race in A1 GP. There is still a lot of scope and we know where to improve. I hope we do something differently this weekend to get a better position."
Dwelling on next generation drivers, Karthikeyan said young drivers were doing well and motorsport in the country was changing for the good.
"Armaan (Ebrahim) and Karun (Chandhok) are doing quite well in GP2 series and Aditya Patel in Formula BMW Malaysia. In his debut race, Aditya got a podium which none of us has done. So he is pretty good. More and more youngsters are trying to get into motor racing now as a profession, and not as a hobby."
"There will be an A1 GP race in India, there will be an F1 race and we have A1 and F1 teams owned by Indians. Sky is the limit now and we just need a good foundation for the youngsters," he said.