India’s first F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan reckons that Hyderabad hosting a round of Formula E - the first world championship status event in the country in 10 years - will provide a much-needed “buzz” to the stagnating motorsport in Indian, though a lot more needs to be done for the sport to flourish.
India last hosted a major motorsport event back in 2013, when the third Indian Grand Prix Formula 1 race was held in Greater Noida.
With the all-electric Formula E Championship making its India debut this week and a MotoGP race scheduled in September, things are looking up for Indian motorsport.
Karthikeyan, who raced around the world for close to three decades before shifting focus to his entrepreneurial venture a couple of years ago, spoke to PTI ahead of the Hyderabad race and also shared his thoughts on young drivers Jehan Daruvala and Kush Maini, who both will be seen in F1’s support series Formula 2.
A major motorsport event is coming to India after a decade. The event will put India back on the world motorsport map but will it be enough to give a fillip to the stagnant motorsport scene in the country?
Even though this is a new format, having a World Championship race is superb in India. It will definitely bring back the buzz, these Gen 3 cars have finally seemed to be showing their true potential and the overall spectacle seems much energised.
There will be no Indian driver on the grid this weekend but Mahindra Racing will finally get to compete in a home race after eight seasons. Do you think the event would be able to attract fans?
Having such an event in the heart of the city at Hyderabad, it will certainly attract a lot of crowd especially being the inaugural race, everyone will be eager to witness the highly charged atmosphere.
Having said that, the layman on the street would find it difficult to identify any of the drivers. But there are some big brands and manufacturers involved who will certainly do their bit in promoting the event.
Like all street circuits, the Hyderabad track will have its own unique challenges, it will be very green to start with. As it is a one-day event, the evolution of the track will be rapid and the teams and drivers need to be quick to adapt to these fast changing conditions.
Jehan Daruvala, who was seen as India’s best bet to reach Formula 1 not long ago, will be competing in his fourth F2 season. Has he already missed the bus?
I am not sure about Jehan missing the bus. But a fourth season in Formula 2 is not ideal and makes it difficult to graduate to F1. But for reasons known only to him and his advisors, they’ve taken a call to continue in Formula 2 in the hope to reach Formula One is the only logic behind this campaign yet again.
Any other youngster who has impressed you?
Kush Maini seems to have a lot of potential and he has shown glimpses of pace in the F3 championship last season and moving up to F2 is another big step. In testing, he was right on the pace and knowing him personally well, I wish him the very best and I’m pretty sure he is going to surprise a lot of people.
After Formula E, MotoGP too is coming to India this year. Can we expect the fortunes of Indian motorsport to change?
Again, another world championship event coming to India will bring motorsport back into the spotlight with two major events happening in the same calendar year will rekindle the interests of fans and enthusiasts Given the opportunities, there is enough talent in the country, the motorsport needs infrastructure and financial support which has lacked over the years.
Your entrepreneurial venture DriveX has got your full attention these days. Do you miss racing?
I competed as a professional racing driver for nearly three decades. Sure, I have a lot of attachment towards it. In the same way, DriveX is a mobility platform which I am very passionate about. Through this, I’m connected to the entire ecosystem. I enjoy what I do in building this global platform.
Your thoughts on the timing of Formula E coming to India?
Of course, the EVs are the new buzz in the auto world. It is highly relevant in the world of technology and the automobile world. Motorsport brings up new R&D which paves its way to road vehicles. It will be a perfect platform for showcasing EVs and other tech which will trickle down to everyday mobility for the future.