Coimbatore, July 20 (IANS) India's first Formula 1 driver Narain Karthikeyan had been left in a blind alley by HRT when it shut shop after the 2012 season and finding that he could not land a drive in 2013, he soon found his way into Auto GP. Lo and behold, he is now in with a chance of grabbing the title after his double podium finish at Mugello, Italy, last week.
Though the Auto GP series (formerly known as Euroseries 3000) is nowhere near F1, Karthikeyan is enjoying competing against a mix of young and experienced drivers, including former Grand Prix driver Christian Klien.
"There is no comparison with F1 car or driving but I am happy racing in Auto GP. There is no better feeling for a driver than winning a race. It is nice to be beating some of the young guys and unlike F1, everyone has the same car, a kind of level-playing field and thus the results are all the more satisfying," Karthikeyan told IANS.
Karthikeyan's pace has been impressive ever since he moved to Super Nova from Zele before the fourth round at Silverstone in June. He won a race that weekend and repeated the feat in Race 2 at Mugello besides finishing third in the opening outing. However, he inherited victories from Kevin Giovesi in both cases.
"With the result last week, I think I can have a shot at the title. The car is good and with the way things are going, I am confident of chasing the leaders in the final three rounds," said Karthikeyan, who lies fourth in the standings with 96 points, 42 short of topper Sergio Campana.
Another reason why Karthikeyan is eying the Auto GP title is that he plans to move to United States next season for a stint with IndyCar. Looking back, Karthikeyan says it was tough for him to continue in single seaters after his team for two F1 seasons, HRT, decided to close operations.
"Initially there was a lot of uncertainty which wasn't good for morale and focus to be honest. When you have a clear goal and plan ahead, you tend to prepare yourself to work towards it," said the 36-year-old.
"I took some time off after the F1 season ended, spent time with my family, enjoyed myself and took it easy - something which I haven't done often. January onwards though, I got back to training and routine in order to be ready for any opportunity that came along. Eventually, Auto GP happened and I took it up thinking I could at least be race fit. The way things have panned out, I feel it was a step in the right direction," said the Coimbatore driver.
As the budgets for an F1 seat get bigger, Karthikeyan is not keen on joining a smaller team again. But how is it like to be away from the pinnacle of motorsport?
"It is different; poles apart. Once you're used to the slick, efficient ways of Formula 1 working, everything else appears a little haphazard. But it doesn't take long to adapt and you tend to forget about it once you start enjoying the racing. And that is the key factor - the fact that there is an opportunity to win, makes a lot of difference to your motivation.
"With HRT, the only goal was to beat your teammate and the odd Marussia car whereas in a single make series, you realise you are competing for pole positions and podiums. The cars may not be as high-tech, but the racing is extremely fierce as all drivers want to make an impression," signed off Karthikeyan.
(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)