The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Not end of the road yet for Narain: Midland

London, Nov. 9: India’s Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan appears to have given up on Jordan for next season, although Jordan ' now renamed Midland ' has so far not given up on him.

Karthikeyan told the media today that Midland was asking for his sponsors ' Tata is the main one ' to come up with between eight and 10 million Euros.

However, a spokeswom- an for Jordan told The Telegraph in Britain: “We have made him an offer for 2006-2007. We have announced one driver for next year and there is still a slot for a second driver available.”

Asked whether Midland was trying to find a face-saving method to get rid of 28-year-old Karthikeyan, the spokeswoman declared emphatically: “No, no, we are very happy with the way he has been driving.”

Again asked whether the dispute was over money, she said: “Yes.”

But she added: “The figure that he mentioned ' it’s not that. It’s less.”

(Sources close to Tata Motors said the company would wait for Karthikeyan to map out his plans, adds our special correspondent in Mumbai. “Let’s wait for him to take a final decision. Then the sponsors will decide how to spread their funds,” the source said.) In comments to the Indian media, Karthikeyan insisted: “There is no way I can raise that kind of money. In fact, I did not even mention the figure to my sponsors because I know it is not possible to get that kind of money. I have been compelled to tell Midland to look elsewhere.”

Midland has already confirmed Dutchman Christian Albers for 2006, while Portugal’s Tiago Monteiro, who has been Karthikeyan’s colleague this year, is a leading contender to retain the second driver’s slot.

Some reports suggest that Monteiro, who is supported by the Portuguese state oil company Galp Energia, has reportedly already agreed terms with the squad for next year and an official announcement is imminent.

Karthikeyan signed for 2005 with UK-based Jordan but halfway through the season, Jordan was taken over by Russian-born Canadian billionaire Alex Shnaider and renamed Midland.

Karthikeyan’s best result this year was to get fourth place at the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis but only six cars raced due to a row over tyres. He did not finish higher than 11th in other races and was lucky to escape unhurt after a crash in Shanghai last month.

Karthikeyan told Reuters that he believed he would not drive again for Midland. “It looks very unlikely unless things dramatically change.”

His own future might be as a test driver, especially as he had been unable to reach an agreement with Midland over money.

“We were juggling with the figures for some time now and it was not working out,” he said. “Anyway, being a test driver in a good car will allow me to showcase my skills better. I am hoping to come back, and that is a genuine possibility.”

He added: “We’re looking at a test driver’s slot for the year 2006, build up on that and see what happens. I will be in Formula One one way or another. Maybe in 2006 you won’t see me driving, but for my long-term future a test driver’s role with a bigger team is more important.”

Although Midland was designing a new car, he felt that it was too early to say how much of an improvement it would be from the old one. “Maybe they will produce a brilliant car, but that risk we are not going to take.”

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