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Not ‘right time’ for Karthikeyan at Force India

Vijay Mallya insists he is “delighted” there will be an Indian driver in F1 this year even thought it “wasn’t the right time” for Force India to sign Narain Karthikeyan.

With the inaugural Indian grand prix scheduled for October, Karthikeyan’s return in 2011 means there will be an Indian on the grid, but not at the wheel of Mallya’s Force India-branded team.

“I’m delighted that Narain is able to make his F1 comeback with HRT and I wish him every success in the coming year,” billionaire Mallya said.

“India should be proud that it will be fully represented in its inaugural grand prix by an Indian team and now an Indian driver.”

Karthikeyan and F1’s other Indian driver, Karun Chandhok, have at times been linked with Silverstone based Force India, but until now the team has fielded only European drivers.

“We have spoken to Narain over a period of time about returning,” revealed Mallya, “and it just wasn’t the right time for us in this stage of our development.”

It is expected that German Adrian Sutil will stay at Force India in 2011, to be joined by Scottish rookie Paul di Resta with Nico Hulkenberg in the Friday seat.

Said Mallya: “We’re currently closing our driver lineup and I’m really excited about what’s to come.”