HRT have announced that Narain Karthikeyan will be their second driver for 2012. The Indian driver joins Spaniard Pedro De La Rosa at the struggling team.
Team principal Luis Pérez-Sala said, “I am pleased to count with Narain for this season, as he will contribute continuity and stability. He is a quick, intuitive and secure driver who met his expectations despite a lack of continuity last year.”
Based on Karthikeyan’s half-season for HRT last year, the only continuity and stability Karthikeyan could possibly be providing is financial.
Karthikeyan, India’s first Formula 1 driver, drove for Jordan in 2005, finishing fourth at the 6-car US Grand Prix, but was not retained for 2006. He was signed by HRT in 2011, but only completed in 8 races before he was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo. A one-race return for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix saw Karthikeyan outpace Ricciardo comfortably, which could not have harmed his chances of a return to the team.
Karthikeyan effectively replaces Tonio Liuzzi, who had a contract with HRT for 2012. The team is known to be struggling for funding, and the sponsorship Karthikeyan brings will be welcome. It is a pity for Liuzzi, as he worked hard to help HRT to move forward in 2011, but ultimately HRT’s driver decision has been a financial one.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa has recently lashed out at pay drivers in an interview with Totalrace, saying “It’s an absurd situation and I don’t think it’s good for F1 and especially the young drivers. Even if you get very good results in the formulas below, you either have to be lucky or have money in order to get a seat.”
While Massa certainly has a point, a Formula 1 team is ultimately a business, and has to make ends meet. HRT chooses to secure some of their funding from driver sponsors. Whether or not the team can move forward with such a strategy remains to be seen.