The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New Year agony for Narain

London, Dec. 19: Narain Karthikeyan, who is hoping to be recruited by Williams, one of the best-known names in Formula One motor racing, will not know whether he will finally be taken on by the English firm until the end of January 2006.

Karthikeyan, India’s sole representative in the competitive world of Formula One racing, had a moderate year with Jordan in 2005, and although he never managed to get on to the podium, he did gain valuable experience.

If he continues to be backed by his sponsors, notably Tata, there is a possibility he can continue his career in motor racing at the highest level.

Williams, though, which had a partnership with BMW but is now going it alone, was sounding both cautious and neutral about Karthikeyan’s prospects.

Although he has impressed in initial tests conducted on the Jerez circuit in Spain, no promises have been made to Karthikeyan.

From the company’s headquarters in Oxfordshire today, a Williams spokeswoman told The Telegraph: “He has been drafted in for a testing period ' we have not made a decision about a third test driver.”

Williams will field the German Nico Rosberg and the Australian Mark Webber as its 2006 race drivers, but has yet to confirm the third. There are other candidates apart from Karthikeyan, among them Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya and Brazilian Felipe Massa.

“We won’t do any more testing until the end of January,” the spokeswoman said. “He (Karthikeyan) has been brought in to do two tests but this is not an indication he will be the third test driver.”

On December 7, in one session of private testing for the Williams Formula One team at Jerez, Karthikeyan got behind the wheel of the FW27B for the first time and recorded a time of 1 minute 19.171 seconds after 37 laps to come behind Frenchman Franck Montagny (1:18.804) who was testing for the Renault team.

Massa and fellow Brazilian Ricardo Zonta, racing for Ferrari and Toyota, respectively, came third and fourth. Webber, who was also testing in a Williams, clocked almost a second slower than Karthikeyan, coming home in 1:20.105 for his sixth position. Montoya, who was in his McLaren, timed 1:20.216 to finish eighth.

In another session, however, engine trouble gave Karthikeyan his first red flag while an oil leak earned him the second. He completed 34 laps with a fastest time of 1:20.871, the seventh fastest of the day.

The spokeswoman added that for the 2006 season, Williams would be running three cars, so that the third driver would actually get to participate in grand prix racing.

“He’s a possibility but we have a list of candidates,” she said. “It’s not extensive but there are others we are considering.”

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