The race to become Asia's first Formula 1 racer from outside Japan is now firmly on with India's Narain Karthikeyan, age 25, being contracted by the Stewart Formula 3 team for Narain's second full British F3 season. With the Stewart F3 team...
The race to become Asia's first Formula 1 racer from outside Japan is now firmly on with India's Narain Karthikeyan, age 25, being contracted by the Stewart Formula 3 team for Narain's second full British F3 season.
With the Stewart F3 team now part of the Jaguar F1 Team group of companies, Narain must now be the favourite to secure a F1 test ahead of S.E.Asian duo of Malaysian Alex Yoong, 23, and Indonesian Ananda Mikola, 20, who are both contending the Formula 3000 Championships in Japan and Europe respectively.
Ford India has renewed its sponsorship agreement with Narain and organised a corporate sponsorship consortium to provide training, development, mentoring and financial backing to Narain in a bid to become the British Formula 3 champion in 2000. This is a first for Indian sport and without these unique arrangements it simply would have been impossible for Narain to realise his ambition of making Formula 1.
Kingfisher beer (through the personal interest of Chairman Mr. Vijay Mallya and his urge to see an Indian Formula One driver), J K Tyres (the company who has been with Narain from almost day one of Narain's racing career), Tata Group (through the visionary that Mr. Ratan Tata is) and Indo Mobil (a global player associating with top performers in the arena of Motor Racing) have all renewed their sponsorships.
Malaysia's Alex Yoong has the backing of the Malaysian Ministry of Youth and Sport, a consortium of sponsors in Japan, Brylcreem and Pan Global Insurance in Malaysia. The interests from local companies for Alex seem pale when compared with Narain's and Ananda's support in their respective countries but Alex is counting on international firms to come to his side within the next few weeks.
"I have my Manager from Japan who is in an advance stage of finalising the funds for the test with a top Formula 1 team for September this year and the latest development is that both the test and the sponsor will be finalised by the end of March 2000. I think everyone will be surprised with who the sponsor is, when they are announced in due time." revealed Alex in Kuala Lumpur today.
Alex will be racing with the top Formula Nippon team (LeMans) under the colors of Nippon Team Malaysia in the 2000 Formula Nippon (F3000) Championship.
Indonesian youngster Ananda is backed by Indonesia's Pertamina, the Otomotif Indonesia Foundation, Gudang Garam tobacco and a consortium of companies from Indonesia.
Ananda has joined Team WRT with Japanese team-mate H.Matsusada for the 2000 European F3000 Championship.
Hanifah Yoong Abdullah who founded the Formula Asia Championship with Indonesian partners in 1995 which launched the careers of all the three young south Asian racers in their teens said, "At the moment, with Narain's backing, he must be the favourite to become the first Asian non-Japanese F1 driver ahead of Alex and Ananda. But there is nothing in it amongst the trio so far as skill and the ability are concerned. I won't be surprised if all 3 be in F1 within the next few years. The question is who will be there first. This year is crucial for them."
The three racers each have their very own websites at www.narainracing.com, www.alexyoong.com , and www.ananda-mikola.com.