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‘Alonso knows when to attack and when to defend’
- Nobody could have won in that Jordan car... The pros know that was Narain’s weakness: Sachin

Sachin Tendulkar is, of course, particular about everything. For example, when in Chennai (or Bangalore), his coffee must be south Indian as distinct from the regular one. And the “mix” has to be right. Just to pre-empt any bitterness, the maestro often does the needful himself.

It was over his preferred cup at the Taj Coromandel, on Sunday evening, that Sachin spoke to The Telegraph about his passion outside cricket ' Formula One. He’s “disappointed” that Narain Karthikeyan is without a sponsor (and a team) for 2006, but is “hopeful” that something positive is going to emerge in some form.

“I know Narain finished no better than 11th twice in full races (Malaysia and Belgium) this year, but nobody could have won in that Jordan car... The pros know that was his weakness. He deserves much credit merely for joining the ranks of Formula One drivers,” Sachin pointed out.

“I’m disappointed that Narain doesn’t have sponsors... In fact, he ought to be supported whole-heartedly... I remain hopeful, though, that he can still have some role to play with one of the teams next year,” he added.

Sachin, it may be recalled, was at hand to cheer Karthikeyan in the Spanish GP in Barcelona. The Indian ace finished 13th, but that didn’t stop Sachin ' who has, in the past, been tapped for tips on mental toughness ' from congratulating him on a “courageous drive.”

“Narain is gutsy and aggressive... Plus, he has obviously gained immensely from one full Formula One season... Only the toughest in the mind survive and Narain, believe me, is very tough,” Sachin remarked.

Till Karthikeyan came on to the scene, Sachin would root for Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher. The multiple world champion, however, finished third overall this year ' behind the record-rewriting Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

“Michael couldn’t do better because of problems with the tyres... He remains a great and I won’t be surprised if he wins back the world crown in 2006... After all, the Formula One body has made changes and the new 2.5 litre V8 engines will work better for Ferrari,” Sachin said.

He rates Alonso, the youngest champion, very highly as well: “The best part of his driving is that he knows when to attack and when to defend... He’s a thinking driver, who was backed up with excellent support from his team (Renault)... To succeed, you need both a superb car and superb support staff. Alonso had both.”

Incidentally, Sachin expects Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya to be “more consistent.” He put it thus: “I’ve interacted with him a couple of times and found him terrific company... He’s a very fine driver and I expect he’s going to be more consistent.”

Driving for McLaren, Montoya finished fourth this year.

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