By Sandip Sikdar
New Delhi, Sep 11 (IANS) Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan has found a new lease of life in the highly competitive Super Formula, formerly known as Formula Nippon, and will continue racing in Japan for the next two years.
India’s first Formula 1 driver said Thursday that he is enjoying the challenging series, where he drives for Team Impul. The cars use a Dallara SF14 chassis, two-litre, 550 bhp turbo-charged engines — similar to the F1 regulations.
“I will be staying in Japan for the next two years. The level of competition is quite high with many top drivers here who have been champions in several other forms of racing. There are some top European guys who have been here for 8-9 years,” Karthikeyan told IANS from Japan Thursday.
“Super Formula is similar to Formula 1. Obviously the cars are not as fast but it has the Drag Reduction System (DRS), pit and tyre stops, the technology and so on. The format is a little bit different but overall very similar to F1,” said Karthikeyan, who last year had five wins in AutoGP.
The 37-year-old’s season this year, however, hasn’t been up to his expectations. Out of the five races completed so far, the Coimbatore-born has had one sixth position finish, two sevenths and two retirements.
“We started out strongly but after that it has not been great as I have had some problems with reliability and so on. Our best finish was sixth in the third race at Fuji Speedway. But the cars are fun to drive and the racing is fantastic,” said the Indian.
He said what makes the races more challenging is that there is little time to learn the tracks.
“There is very little time to learn the tracks and then race on it too, so it becomes quite challenging. Exposure to the circuit is a lot less which makes it difficult. Plus, there is very limited traction so changing the tactics etc also comes into play. Challenges also include looking after the tyres and how to maximise their utility,” Karthikeyan said.
“They are not the the modern kind of circuits — very old school which are very fast and traditional. Some are bumpy too so you need to know a few tricks to get around them.”
The next round of the series will be held at Autopolis in Oita Prefecture Sep 14. The race will be shown live on Star Sports.
“Autopolis is another good track. I have driven a road car around here so I have an idea of the layout. The Autopolis circuit is very fast. The tracks in Japan are very technical,” said Karthikeyan, who has had three (2005, 2011 and 2012) seasons in Formula 1.
Karthikeyan is also following the intriguing battle between Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton for the drivers’ title in the ongoing F1 season. The Indian picked Rosberg to take home the championship which looks going down to the wire.
“It is fantastic for the fans and more interesting than last year. If Rosberg finishes all the races it will be tough for Lewis to fight back with the current points difference which is quite high now,” said Karthikeyan.
“But there are many other factors at play. They have had reliability issues too. Also, the last race at Abu Dhabi has a double points finish. I think that will decide the title but its going down to the wire, that’s for sure.”
(Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at email@example.com)