HRT is expected to confirm officially on Friday that Narain Karthikeyan has secured one of the Spanish team’s race seats for 2011.
“I am sure that his experience and speed will be very useful for the team during the season,” team boss Colin Kolles said.
The news comes after the Indian driver, who made his F1 debut in 2005 with Jordan, announced on Twitter that he has been signed thanks to the support of his sponsors.
It emerged late last year that Karthikeyan, turning 34 next week, had up to $8 million to spend on a seat, including the backing of Mumbai-based carmaker Tata who are thought keen to associate with the inaugural Indian grand prix in October.
“Huge thanks to my long time supporters (the) Tata Group. Their support has been instrumental,” he tweeted on Thursday.
After his Jordan debut, Karthikeyan spent some time as Williams’ test driver but more recently has been racing in the Superleague and NASCAR Truck series.
It was rumoured that he had split unpleasantly with Kolles in late 2005, but insists that he has an “excellent working relationship” with the now HRT chief.
“I have always maintained that I have not given up on my desire to return to the top level of motor sport,” Karthikeyan is quoted by Indian media.
The Delhi-based Hindustan Times newspaper revealed that Karthikeyan chose F1 over NASCAR for 2011 even though he “won’t be making any money” personally this year.
“It was a tough call,” he confirmed, “but one I had no qualms making.”
Karthikeyan was asked about the likely competitiveness of HRT’s 2011 car, after the Dallara-built single seater this year proved the slowest in the field.
“The car can’t be any worse than it was last year,” he said. “Ideally we would like to move ahead of the other two new teams Lotus and Virgin.”
© RIF | GMM