Karthikeyan springs surprise with HRT deal

UPDATE (GMM) 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.

NASCAR's most popular driver in 2010 will ditch the NASCAR truck series. With the Indian GP starting in 2011 of course F1 had to have a driver from India. Karthikeyan was the logical choice

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 rumored 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."

01/06/11 Narain Karthikeyan will make his F1 comeback next season following news that he has inked a deal to race with Hispania. The Indian, who last competed at the top level back in 2005 with Jordan and who tested for Williams in 2006 and 2007, confirmed the development via Twitter.

“[I’m] back in F1 in 2011," he wrote. “[I’ve] signed a deal to race for HRT. I’ve always maintained that my time in F1 was not over and now I’m making good on that promise.

“I’ve worked really hard to come back to F1 and it will be a dream come true to race in front of my home crowd in the Indian GP in October.

“I’m looking forward to the Indian public spurring me on with their blessings and good wishes. [I will be] ramping up my fitness regime now – big time. I see plenty of hours in the gym in the near future."

Speaking to The Times of India, he added: "It has been a while in the making, but I am delighted to be racing again in Formula 1 in 2011.

“I am confident that I have the pace, the fitness and the will to succeed. I am extremely grateful to the Tata Group, without whose unwavering support, this comeback would not have been possible.

"I'm looking forward to racing for HRT, and to working again with Dr Colin Kolles [Team Principal at HRT]. We have a long standing and excellent working relationship together."

During his time in the F1 wilderness, Karthikeyan competed in A1 GP, winning twice for A1 Team India. He has also raced at Le Mans, in NASCAR and the Superleague Formula.

Hispania Racing meanwhile has yet to put out any official statement in relation to its 2011 driver line-up.

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