Tag Archives: Motorsports

My F1 years! #NarainKarthikeyan #F1

Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Jordan has his seat fitting. Jordan Seat Fitting, Jordan HQ, Silverstone, England, 3 February 2005. DIGITAL IMAGE
Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Jordan has his seat fitting.
Jordan Seat Fitting, Jordan HQ, Silverstone, England, 3 February 2005.
Formula One World Championship
Narain with team mate Tiago Monteiro and Trevor Carlin

Dear Friends,

I will be writing about the first F1 years with respect to Narain Karthikeyan. Come Jan 31st it would be 10 years since that announcement that Narain Karthikeyan went on to make history as the First F1 driver from India. In his own words, ‘there are fewer F1 drivers than astronauts on earth’ that was an achievement only he could have earned and deservedly so.

As it was about to sink in, and the pulse racing on how it would all go that year saw a great revival in Indian’s fortunes and some near misses. The Australian GP was one of its kind. I can easily recall that qualifying under the rains and Narain was in his elements and lo the he had Schumi the God on the track in his rear view mirror when he started that first race of the reason.

It was a drive for Narain and an aspiration for a billion people lived that moment when he raced past the chequered flag completing the race. Bringing home the car mattered the most. In a nation that took time to understand the sport and with people looking to Narain to win a race, it was all like they say in a race – eventful year for Narain and Indian motorsports.

It was during the Thursday’s press conference Narain was acknowledged by the Master Schumacher saying ‘I saw him drive’. With a billion aspiration on his shoulder Narain set out to race in one of his life’s unforgettable moments. His close knit family travelled to see the event unfold, the Australian fans waving the Indian flags and it was a sight to watch when he was aboard the car during the parade moments preceding the race on Sunday.

I still remember a poster which said ‘Narain Marry Me!’ from one of the fangirl.

On March 18, 2005, the yellow coloured Jordan No.19 was cynosure of all eyes in India glued to the TV screens and that signature Chakra & tricolour helmet was all we could see in action as he set out to drive the race of his life time. Its no mean achievement to be the first Indian F1 driver. History was made! He finished 15th!

We shall relive all these moments in the series starting now. And you cant forget TATA, Speed by Bharat Petroleum, JK Tyres, Amaron and Raymonds and JCB later joined the party!

Senthilkumar Rajappan

Pics Courtesy: Jordan F1 2005

Khardung La Chronicles – Day 7

Excellence & winning is never an accident! I saw this in a different vein and this would encapsulate the whole experience for me! I have always seen F1 from a team perspective and it would get into everyone right from the driver to the mechanic to contribute to the team’s success.

This day would be the day of reckoning for the team and forget not this has been a hardwork and a culmination of smart work over the last six months. And as we inch closer to the pinnacle, its becoming more challenging.

The South Pullu experience has taught the team that we need to check the engine as we get closer to the summit. So at every capable distance they stopped the car and check the engine and lo it went to life without any murmur of dissent.

As we were on our way we had a pleasant surprise in Honourable Mr. Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir. He was kind enough to do a symbolic flag off on the way and later would meet us at the Summit – The Khardung La Pass!

A note about the Chief Minister, a very attractive personality and a very enthusiastic individual he was mesmerized by the machine he saw and took all out effort to familiarize about it from Neel Jani.

So As I stood watching Neel explain his all important Steering wheel, Mr. Abdullah was all eyes and ears to what Neel was saying.

‘It’s a kind of your PSP steering wheel, you have controls and shift paddles here, ( he was showing all the knobs and paddles) but the only thing is if you make a mistake in your PSP there wont be any problem but here in you do a mistake it will be costly!’ said Neel.

That made Mr. Abdullah laugh and he was pleasantly surprised with the fact that Red Bull chose his state for its record feat and went on to say it was sort of unbelievable and incredible to see an F1 car on hilly road in the Kashmir valley!

This is what the Honourable chief Minister  had to say ‘Its great fun! it was an incredible experience. I never thought I would get to see an F1 car attempting to make its way through Khardung La! Hats off to Red Bull Racing for doing this.  All the best!’

The Tourism Minister, and the Director of Tourism were also accompanying him, and not miss his young nephews who were also enjoying the car.

You would also want to remember Neel’s friend and the No.1 driver at Red Bull will seal the Title Championship at Japan today. Just one point separated him from being the youngest 2 time World Champion.

Its always nice to be a part of history when being made, you have years on to keep going back and reminiscence those moments.

Yes I forgot to mention something important, it had snowed all night and the way now was all snow and it was looking pretty white everywhere. Akshar even tried playing snow ball, and Tomaz was shelling his snow ball on all the windscreens whenever we had to stop to a convoy or an upcoming traffic.

Our trucks were well on their way to Khardungla after Neel had done some 15000 plus feet on the car and the roads were getting slippery and the tyres were changed for better.

Just as we were getting near the summit there was a huge traffic jam, no it was not Delhi but this happens when there is a truck or a vehicle trapped on the road and you had to travel all the way down to get spares or even repair the puncture.

Somehow after almost an hour we reached the place, it was so colorful with the stupa in there. There were prayer flags fluttering around thought the temperature was really below zero degrees, we could sense that but in the heat of the moment literally we forgot that we were in minus 12 degree out there.

To tell you more before I conclude this marathon blog, there are several places of interest you should visit once you are on this Khardung La. There is this cafeteria nice one dishing out Maggi and tea to everyone. It is awesome feeling to taste their Maggi at such altitude. The tea would also taste sweet and turn cold if you thought about something for a moment.

There was a souvenir shop and you should buy something for the simple reason you were there. It would have the Khardung La name on it. A super special memorable gift to oneself if you want it.

The camera crew was now buzzing around so too were the Team RBR. They had just checked the car just some 2 kms away to start and they had been positive about it and so the were only looking to clear the logistics around the truck and were waiting to clear the traffic which had gathered as a result of us being there.

It took some time to clear the traffic and make some clean road for the F1 car to be driven by Neel. Meanwhile Neel was also enjoying this time chit chatting with engineers and the crew. He would give in to any request for a picture and be on his wonderful smile.

So the traffic cleared but the winds weren’t happy though, it started snowing, and it was getting cold  all the more. We were there and we didn’t want to be outdone by external factors, so we kept working and the whole team waited with bated breath when the car was started up. It got into full drive mode and Neel went on to drive one of the most memorable drives which will lead him to history as the one who drove the first F1 car atop the highest motorable road in the world at 18380 ft to be precise.

It was a moment to cherish for everyone from Team RBR, the Case productions and ofcourse the Team Red Bull India.

As the car came to a halt, it was celebrations galore with team cheering up Neel on this mission and making it successful, there were hugs around and for me it was one of the high points in life, literally and more so emotionally, its been a great run with F1 in indirect terms with watching races and writing blogs and reaching out, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I shall report one of the most challenging F1 project ever undertaken from a team as respected as Red Bull and I shall be so close to the making of history.

Now was the time for photo ops, the cameras were on roll and the shutters didn’t stop. The team was estatic, they had made the best of engineering possible to fire the engine at such altitude and also had a formula for the fuel to make it happen.

The ride height being raised was one of the factor I had already talked about, but on the other hand the fuel was 97 octane petrol and a new engine management software took care to manage the fuel mixture the ratio of fuel to air in order to compensate for less oxygen.

Anthony Ward, Head of Brand for Red Bull Racing said, “It is a testament to the engineering crew of Red Bull Racing that we have been able to get a Formula One car running from 11,000 feet, all the way up to the 18,380 feet mark. Logistically too, this project demonstrates Red Bull Racing’s commitment to continually pushing boundaries.”

For Tony Burrows, The Team Head, they had done exceedingly well in a sense they got the car to start without a hitch at that altitude and it was a great day at office for the whole team.

For 27 year old Neel Jani, veteran of drives like Red Bull Racing’s journey to Table Mountain in South Africa, this was an experience he’s unlikely to forget in a hurry. “Of all the places I’ve driven around the world, Khardung La has got to be the most humbling. The Himalayas are as imposing as anything in the world and to become a part of history here will be a cherished memory,” said Jani.

The Red Bull Speed Street Leh project marks another milestone for Red Bull Racing; it joins the team’s other impressive runs, including the Formula Santo Domingo Beach Run and the Canadian Red Bull Frozen One on ice.

As for me it was a culmination of what was a dream come true, not so often do you get your chances of being at the summit, with an F1 car and a team which literally gives you Wings. The Team Red Bull.

Signing off

R Senthilkumar

Of Bahrain, Kubica and HRT…

The cancellation of Bahrain as it comes under circumstances beyond control of organizers makes a for a commentary on the political machinations under which sports are run. Given that Bahrain is one of the most waited circuit since its inception in 2004 has always been a wonderful advertising for the sports in this part of the continent.

There was no other alternative than the cancellation at his hour. We were already given the idea with all the reports and tweets emanating from there after the last test. While the teams were returning they were driving past militia and tanks and camouflaged men. Not a sight to behold on whatever the nationality we may belong to.

It is indeed a great loss and this will only make the other circuits in the Asian region work harder to make it up for the loss of an Asian venue if I may say so.

As I write this we have the first GP coming up at Noida near New Delhi and the f1.com site in its calendar has an * attached which says subject to approval. So the other Asian circuits or rather the F1 circus travels to are China, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore and ofcourse Abu Dhabi. So here we have the fate closing in to make 19 races from 20 as scheduled. It could be that the Bahrain can be back which is remote at this point in time or we may have one more race in some place but it has to be really worked out.

As regards testing Jerez or Barcelona will host the next testing. So there is one more testing which will not be on any of the real race circuits. We can see the best on the day at Australian GP in a totally different dimension that would be real surprise for all the teams.

We can also factor in weather this time around like last year which can play and make or break a race for the current champion and the future champion.

Talking of champions this year is getting sexier with so many champions on the grid. Micheal, Alonso, Lewis, Vettel, Button, that’s an impressive list by any standards and this will be really be great action from the word go. The sheer idea of imagining this is a nice experience I bet.

There is only one seat left to be announced that’s from Hispania, the team mate of Narain Karthikeyan, and hopefully the grid will complete the next week.

Robert Kubica needs a special mention an unfortunate accident at an inopportune moment, just the timing of it was harsh and unexpected in a fashion which shook the whole fraternity, I was filled with tears and had only this question why only Kubica, having seen the Canadian crash was too much on him. Pray he gets back and wish to see him behind the wheel at the earliest opportunity. I am more optimist than ever after seeing one of my superb sweet driver Massa get back in the way only F1 drivers could have done or can do. Kubica has given Nick his life line and hopefully he will enjoy every bit of it.

So will catch up as we watch the next best champion raring to go and also some testing in between.

Will write about the testing and the grid in the next post till then sitting happily fingers crossed.

PS: Here in India people wont listen to you other than Cricket till the final on 2nd April so its a kinda real tough to get them listen in 🙂

Narain Karthikeyan back in F1!

The news of Narain Karthikeyan getting back to F1 made up for an almost lost opportunity to have an Indian driver don the tricolors during the inaugural Indian Grand Prix this October. Watching it from close quarters, it was a foregone conclusion that Narain would be the best bet. I would have preferred him drive a Force India F1 any day, but lets get back to reality.

When I met him a couple of months back, the same questions popped up, whats are the plans like, hows he liking the NASCAR drive, et all. As we conversed, we knew this year is will be more emotional than ever, may be far more than the 2005 year start at Melbourne. I still remember he had Michael Schumacher in his mirror. He felt this is also a very important for us in India to showcase what we can achieve, in terms of Infrastructure and as a nation with a sporting culture what we can pull off especially when its the first Indian GP. The dream of having an Indian driver at the Indian GP is now a reality.

It is a long dream come true, that its there finally on the calendar, we were close to a Hyderabad F1 track way back if I should say, but we never know how political equations can hinder or bolster things up. Then waiting for almost last three years on tow and this years officially being up there near New Delhi in Noida.

Its great to see the place coming up at a brisk pace, and will get ready to host the event. The Commonwealth Games last year, sans the corruption story was a great reminder that India can host the best given an opportunity. We can be sure that Indian GP will also be an event which will change the way F1 looks at Indian market for sure.

Now we have three people to cheer, two FF1 cars and one HRT, and if you thought we will be spoilt for choice, its not simply true. Narain will be most watched, riding on a billion dreams next only to the Cricket World Cup aspirations that Indians religiously have and pray for. We will still be looking out for FF1 cars!

Despite of his age, Narain is a fast driver and a quick learner, so the challenges before him in terms of the change in technology and rules should be easy for him. Adaptability is his forte. Doing what he likes is one of his hallmarks and inside the cockpit he forgets the world around him.

It would be unwise to expect any miracle from HRT on day 1, nevertheless, it might be that he should look for opportunities wasted by those ahead of him and for sure, we will be a happy lot. Now waiting for the Bahrain GP to kick start the circus as we all know for this year!

Will be back with more!

Sponsorless Narain’s A1GP car

It pained me no bounds when I got to know Narain will be driving without any of the sponsors aboard the A1GP India car powered by Ferrari. It was an anticlimax or an paradox that the first driver who represented the nation in the pinnacle of motor sports has been left to fend for himself in such an disrespectful fashion.

Having known Mr. Narain as a professional, I am sure this is just a passing phase and his positive vibes are sure to get him back to the helm of affairs rightful place among the stars. It also puts a question mark on the viability of Indian brands to reach for the global status. That F1 anf A1GP are of international magnitude is a documented fact and A1GP received a shot in the arm with Ferrari coming on board with their 2007 F1 engine.

The races F1 and A1 have great advertising and massive television reach though A1 cannot be compared to the larger audience that F1 commands, but they are truly international in reach and making it a force to reckon with for the media guys in the advertising fraternity.

It is of course nobody’s case when Doordarshan our national broadcaster shows its door to F1 supremo Bernie few years back when he gave the TV rights on a platter but we refused because of the tobacco advertising and I fail to understand how I am watching Grand Prix a half hour show every night in DD sports and mind you its all the old broad cast files and bet you had more tobacco advertising than today…:(

Then we have Mr. Mallya with ideas that only he thinks deem fit that no Indians are worth the F1 cars that he is owning. Crass imperialist notion we Indians are known for. Like that of Slumdog Millionaire. I just cant digest an anchor like the “Prem” played by Anil Kapoor, still leaving you wonder if anyone worth his self respect can be so rude as those were played real time on small screen by Big B and SRK and ofcourse the Dus Ka Dum Sallu.

So where does it leave Indian Motorsports, not so rosy picture I guess, nevertheless that a die hard optimist that I am as always I am hopeful that there shall be some great business Samaritans to help the Team A1 GP out of the slushy pit of the financial trouble that they are in now.

Hopefully if Narain can pull it off, it will be possible only by Narain. Keep going as you say that 110% on the over drive…

So that leaves us to think about a long term plan for the motorsports industry now that Bernie has almost promised a GP an Indian GP in 2011. And let the people who are handling the Circuit do their best to get the races asap.

Here’s NK interview at ndtv.com

Signing off

R Senthilkumar aka Indian F1 fan