Force India not eyeing Narain Karthikeyen

Updated: 26 October 2012 18:01 IST

The pressure on the Indian driver may increase further after Sahara Force India denied having eyes on him for the next season.

New Delhi:

Force India on Friday denied they have any plans to hire local talent Narain Karthikeyen, piling more pressure on the driver who could struggle to retain his spot next year with HRT-Cosworth.

Karthikeyan is trailing in 24th position ahead of his home Grand Prix this Sunday, spurring reports that HRT is weighing up its options regarding his place in the team next year.

And when McLaren driver and former world champion Lewis Hamilton said this week Karthikeyan could do much better if he got the opportunity to drive for Force India, tongues were set wagging.

But Robert Fernley, deputy principal of the team promoted by Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya, has poured cold water on the notion saying the 35-year-old would not be on their minds when they sit down to finalise the driver line-up for 2013.

"Narain is an exceptionally competent driver," Fernley told AFP ahead of Sunday's Indian Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi.

"If we put him in our car this weekend he could do better. But with all due respect to Narain, can he compete with and outperform our drivers? It is not his fault because he's not had the opportunity that our drivers have had.

"Unfortunately that is the way it is," added Fernley.

Karthikeyan's HRT team is languishing at the bottom of the constructor's standings without no points.

"It is unfortunate that Narain is driving a slow car. Probably, it would do wonders if he were in Force India which is a pretty good team," Hamilton was widely quoted as saying by the local media.

Force India, the first Formula One team to race under an Indian licence, have Scottish Paul de Resta and Germany's Nico Hulkenberg in their ranks and the duo have performed creditably in the season so far.

Hulkenberg is placed 12th in the driver's championship with 45 points, two ahead of Germany legend Michael Schumacher, and di Resta (44) is on 13th place.

Force India, which finished sixth last year, has scored more points (89) this season than it did last year at the same stage and is competing with Sauber, placed one rung above it in the constructor's standings.

Fernley credited the improvement to a rebuilding process that the team underwent in 2009.

"Now we have a dedicated team of professionals. We have the best drivers that we can afford and who push the car to its limits. Teams can't develop if you have drivers with limitations," said Fernley.

Fernley, however, said a process was on to identify and groom Indian talent for the future.

"We have an academy which is involved in spotting raw and young talent. The whole process could take 5-6 years because these are 14-16 year old boys. We are trying to provide them the right platform," he said.

Fernley also sought to dismiss the controversy surrounding Mallya, who lost his billionaire ranking in Forbes magazine this week as his Kingfisher Airways

remains grounded over a pay dispute.

The row was partly resolved on Thursday after the striking staff agreed to get back to work.

"The controversy has had no impact on Force India. It is a separate entity. I don't think we should compare what is happening with his other businesses to the F1 team. Our team can only be judged by its performance on the tracks."

Fernley was confident his flamboyant boss would be at hand to cheer his team, come Sunday.

"Definitely he will be coming here. There is no question about that."

Topics : Formula 1 Force India Indian Grand Prix Kevin Pietersen Narain Karthikeyan R Chandok HRT Luis Perez-Sala Buddh International Circuit
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