Narain Karthikeyan‘s ‘preparation’ for next month’s Indian Grand Prix began today in Singapore as the 34-year-old took to the track for HRT in Free Practice 1.
However, it was not the session that the Indian driver would have wanted: first there was a delay of thirty minutes while repairs to the kerbs were carried out, and then two red flags further reduced his track time by approximately 12 minutes.
“It was fantastic to be back in the car today,” said Karthikeyan. “I brushed off all the cobwebs after two and a half months without driving. It was a good session even though being a new track for me it was not ideal. But I'm very happy with how the testing went, especially since I was faster than Daniel until the end.
“On the last lap I had a really good split but encountered some traffic and couldn't finish the time. It's a shame that the session was cut short because we couldn't do many laps and, with the red flags, I couldn't really get into a rhythm. But I was pretty much on the pace and that is quite positive”.
Today was also the first time that Daniel Ricciardo had driven this street circuit. The Australian rookie was pleased with his own performance today, but was a bit concerned about the gap to the cars in front.
“I knew beforehand that this Grand Prix would be a big challenge and it didn't let me down but it is really hot and the circuit doesn't create much air flow; it's like a sauna in there!” he exclaimed. “I have really enjoyed it because the track is good: tight and challenging. You can't even blink. Today was positive but we are yet a little bit off our closest rivals. We need to try and close that gap for tomorrow's qualifying. Racing at night is not much different in terms of visibility, but it is really nice seeing the lights reflecting off the cars and the sparks flying. I'm enjoying my first taste of night racing”.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, who was only in the car for the afternoon session, finished the day bottom of the timesheets. He is virtually guaranteed to be at the back of the grid this weekend thanks to the penalty he picked up for causing the first corner accident in Monza a fortnight ago.
“I'm quite pleased with how the session went,” said the Italian. “We had to adjust a few things set-up wise; there was a bit of oversteering at the front end and we had to modify the balance a bit. We went into a bit of traffic every time we were on soft or supersoft tyres so we couldn't get achieve the best lap time but I'm positive ahead of the weekend. With the 5 place penalty, there's not much we can strive for tomorrow so we have to focus on Sunday's race”.
Despite being firmly rooted to the bottom of the timesheets, HRT boss Colin Kolles seemed remarkably pleased with how the day had gone. “Today has been a positive day for the team,” he somehow concluded. “All three drivers and the whole team in the garage have worked well and we have completed the programme we had scheduled for today. Although the first session was shortened and interrupted a couple of times by red flags, both Karthikeyan and Ricciardo made the most of their time out on track.
“After a long time without racing, Narain was solid and consistent and Daniel was getting used to the track and later on set some good times in the afternoon. Tonio was back in for the second session and completed the set programme of different configurations. In the afternoon we also ran some tests with supersoft tyres without doing a qualifying simulation, so I'm confident that we can improve on our times tomorrow when the track conditions will also get better”.