Narain Karthikeyan - At the end of 2012 F1 season, it was almost certain that HRT won’t be participating in the 2013 championship and thus it ended Karthikeyan’s another stint at F1. His association with TATA continued, it didn’t have any effect on that front. After months of wait, we got to know that he has joined an European single seater racing series i.e Auto GP. He started his season with Zele Racing initially but after not so expected results with the team, he switched to Super Nova International after round 3. Since then he has been racing for the British team and has got 3 wins & 4 podium finishes (including wins) under his belt. He has also got t pole position thrice now. It’s hard to compare between F1 & Auto GP in every sense. Both of the places he is expected to do well but in F1 it was lot depending on the car he had while in Auto GP, the cars almost similar in nature. He has been competing well with some young European talents which shows that he can still race hard and race for wins, whichever series it be. He sits at P4 in the championship and his aim is simple to win the championship, it is going to be a tough ask with the points difference but there is 2 more rounds to come.
Parth Ghorpade - Parth had a successful outing in Formula Pilota China championship last year with Eurasia Motorsport. He had finished P3 overall in the standings and was adjudged the Best Asian driver in the series. Winning the best Asian driver trophy, he was awarded a private testing of a Ferrari F3 car in the Ferrari Driver Academy which is successfully completed during the month of May. He became the first Indian driver to drive a car in Fiorano, Ferrari’s own race track as he completed some 80 odd laps. Coming to his current driving season, he switched over to Formula Renault 2.0 Alps series, driving for BVM Racing. It hasn’t been the best of season for him surely as has only got 4 points from the 5 rounds happened this season. It’s tough to draw any conclusion but he has had some tough outings where he couldn’t score points. Naturally, he would have wanted a lot better season after the big success in Pilota championship last year but it didn’t happen. I think, this is a learning curve for the young driver, there sure is lot of potential, he only needs the right backing and time to excel. I certainly hope he ends the season on a high with two rounds remaining.
Shahaan Engineer - Shahaan ended his 2012 season sitting well on P7 in the championship of Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, he had some pretty good races last season. Naturally, he continued driving in the same series this season. He didn’t change his team as well as he continued to drive for Fortec Motorsports, a British team. He raced in two of the starting rounds this season but since then he hasn’t taken part in any of the races. He had accumulated 56 points in the first two rounds and was looking good for this season too but it seems some issues has stopped him from racing. I am not sure what the problem is and I am not going to speculate but this is a very unfortunate situation for the young Indian driver. I hope to see him racing once again soon.
I'm going to start off my review by stating just how delighted I am for Narain Karthikeyan! In the past, I have felt sorry for him, he did such a fantastic job to get into F1 twice but just did not have competitive enough machinery to show what he is capable of and thus has been seen as one of the slowest guys in the F1 paddock. Let us not forget though that Narain has won titles, both in the UK and Asia in the past - he is no slouch. It is no secret that he is coming towards the end of his career, however he is (finally) getting the success he deserves in the Auto GP series.
Auto GP has been running since 1999 (although previously under the Formula 3000 name) and it is a very competitive series. Previous winners include Felipe Massa and, in 2010, Romain Grosjean. Focussing on 2013 though, Narain has a shot at this title!
The standings are as follows:
1) Kimiya Sato (171 points)
2) Vittorio Ghirelli (159)
3) Sergio Campana (158)
4) Narain Karthikeyan (129)
Narain is 42 points behind the leader, with four races to go (two at Donington Park, UK and two at Brno, Czech Republic). I won't bore you with the scoring system, but there are a total of 95 points left up for grabs. This seems like a tough ask for Narain to take the title, and it is to be honest - but there is a crucial piece of information missing yet ..
Narain started the season with Zele Racing and scored the following results (in his six races with the team):
1 x 4th
1 x 5th
1 x 6th
1 x 8th
2 x Retirement
Plus one fastest lap.
From that point he switched to Super Nova International and suddenly results improved (again six races with this team so far):
3 x 1st
1 x 3rd
1 x 5th
1 x 12th
Plus three pole positions and one fastest lap.
It is pretty clear that in his new team, he is the fastest guy out there. Note: those three pole positions are from three qualifying sessions, i.e. 100% pole position rate since moving team. Narain is catching the leaders, but with four races to go - can he do it? He needs a little luck in terms of a retirement for other drivers, but yes, I think he can! He needs maximum points in the next race at Donington Park ideally, he has been very quick there in the past!
All-in-all, Parth has done a decent job this season. Despite a little bit of a troubled start, Parth has found himself firmly in the midfield in recent races. Considering Parth's relative experience at this level - that's not too bad! Parth himself was probably hoping for podiums and wins, but he's still learning how to handle this car to a certain extent, so I am not too concerned. We have seen flashes of Parth's brilliance this season including a points finish (9th place) on the Indian's debut at Vallelunga, Italy.
Parth sits 25th in the championship on 4 points. There are four more races to go, if he can continue to finish 15th or above (like he has in the last three races) then that will be a productive season for him.
Note: the grid size in this series is usually around 35 drivers per race, 15th is respectable for someone of Parth's experience.
Parth's first major racing series outside India was French F4 back in 2011 and 22-year old Indian Sidhant Panda is racing in that series this year. Parth finished 15th overall but it does not seem as if Sidhant will be able to match that this season.
I actually get on with Sidhant quite well, but I don't think he'll mind me saying that he has really struggled to be competitve this season. More often than not Sidhant will be seen propping up the timesheets. Having said that, during the last race at Circuit du Val de Vienne in France, the gap to the other drivers was smaller than in previous races. This shows progress - the only way is up! Having had a chat with him he has high hopes for the next race at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours which previously hosted the French Grand Prix.