Could have been back in F1 last year: Karthikeyan

New Delhi: Narain Karthikeyan says he could have returned to Formula One through Hispania last year itself but deliberately delayed the comeback as the Spanish team was new on the circuit at that time.

Karthikeyan, the first Indian Formula One driver, yesterday announced his deal with HRT, ending a six-year wait to get into the elite motorsport competition.

"I`ve been in discussion with HRT for a long time.

Originally we had discussed the possibility of me driving for them in 2010, but I felt that it was not the opportunity I was looking for at that time, as the team was new in F1, and still an unproven one," Karthikeyan told PTI.

"At that time, I felt it was best for me to race elsewhere in 2010. For the 2011 season HRT have expanded their own resources, and have established some strong technical partnerships," he added.

Hispania, which in 2010 gave another Indian Karun Chandhok a chance to race for half the season, will participate with an upgraded version of their 2010 chassis, mated to the Cosworth engine and a gearbox sourced from the Williams Formula 1 team.

They have also hired designer Geoff Willis, who is hugely experienced in F1.

"I`m sure the combination of these things will make for an improved package in 2011. Although my discussion with HRT and Dr Colin Kolles have been on-going for many months, the deal was signed only very recently, hence the announcement," he said.

In its rookie season, Hispania finished 11th out of 12 teams in the constructors` championship being the slowest car on the grid.

Now, it will be a big challenge for Karthikeyan to not only establish himself again in F1 but lift HRT as well.

"I`ve always lived for the big challenges and I`ve always risen to face them head on. I`m looking forward to this one just the same," he said.

The timing of Karthikeyan`s comeback also assumes significance as India will make its debut in 2011 as an F1 venue and the Indian racer acknowledges this.

"It will be a double treat for the Indian fans as they will have an Indian driver and an Indian team (Force India) to cheer for," he said.

Karthikeyan had become first F1 driver from India when he raced for Jordan in 2005 and test-drove for Williams in 2006 and 2007.

After that, he raced in the A1 Grand Prix series, dubbed as World Cup of motorsport till 2009 and then competed in the American Nascar Truck series and the Superleague Formula in Europe last year.

Asked where, other than F1 he enjoyed racing the most, he said,"I enjoy all my racing, but winning in A1GP for national pride was a really special feeling."

He also said he never felt frustrated in the last four-five years when he was not racing in F1.

"I never gave up hope on getting back into F1. I`ve always said that I would drive again in F1, and I`m making good on that promise now. There have been many detractors along the way, but I always believed in myself. I am confident that I have the pace, the fitness and the will to succeed in Formula 1," he said.

}