Karthikeyan 12th fastest in Valencia test


Valencia : India’s Narain Karthikeyan, driving a Hispania Racing car, marked his return to Formula One (F1) by clocking a best lap time of one minute, 18.020 seconds that put him 12th among 13 drivers who participated in the first test session of the season, here Tuesday.

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The 34-year old Chennai-born and Coimbatore-based Karthikeyan put in 45 laps around the 4.0005 km Ricardo Tormo circuit, completing 45 laps in the 2010 model.

The Spanish outfit, which last year did not manage to do any pre-season testing ahead of their F1 debut, collected valuable data on the performance of the Pirelli tyres that replaced Bridgestone as the official tyre suppliers for this season.

“It did not seem to be easy to drive the new car after all this time, but finally it was not that difficult,” said Karthikeyan, who last drove an F1 race in 2005.

“I got into it quite quickly and yes, we could have done some more laps, but we have some minor problems. Overall, I am very happy to be back, and I think the body and the mind did pretty well. I am looking forward to the next two days (of testing).”

Team Principal Colin Kolles was happy with Karthikeyan’s performance on the opening day.

“We had a good day and could run out our programme. Karthikeyan made no mistakes, and he is still building up his speed. He has to adapt himself again to F1, to get used to the high G-forces and to the new Pirelli tyres.

“We have to analyse the data of today´s testing and I want to see how he (Karthikeyan) progresses on the following days.”

Meanwhile, the Force India F1 team’s pre-season testing programme also got underway with Nico Hülkenberg and Paul di Resta undertaking their first official driving duties for the team since their confirmation in the driver line-up last Wednesday.

The team used the VJM03 – last year’s challenger – to gather further tyre data while valuable development work is continued on the VJM04 in the wind tunnel back at Silverstone.

Hulkenberg completed 71 laps with a best time of 1:13.938, the second quickest of the day behind Red Bull’s World champion Sebastian Vettel (1:13.769), as he got up to speed with the car and the different protocols and procedures employed by the team.

Paul di Resta took over late afternoon to complete his baseline runs in advance of his first full day of testing Wednesday. The Scot posted the fourth best time of the day after 28 laps.

Di Resta will continue the test Wednesday with Adrian Sutil taking over Thursday when the test programme concludes.

“Generally a very productive and promising first day with the team. The main goal was principally for me to get used to the team, the car and the new Pirelli tyres and my impressions of all were pretty positive,” said Hülkenberg.

Seven-time World champion Michael Schumacher, in a 2011 Mercedes, clocked ninth best of 1:16.450 over nine laps while team-mate Nico Rosberg was the slowest among the 13 in 1:19.930.