Feb.9 (GMM) Narain Karthikeyan has emerged as a surprise contender to fill the final spot on the 2013 grid.

Although the Indian driver and team boss Vijay Mallya have never been the best of friends, the Deccan Chronicle newspaper said Karthikeyan's sponsor Tata has opened the doors to the Silverstone based team.

However, the Ferrari-linked Frenchman Jules Bianchi appears arguably the hotter favourite to be Paul di Resta's teammate this year, particularly after going second quickest in the brand new VJM06 car as the Jerez test wrapped up on Friday.

Jules Bianchi, Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM06
Jules Bianchi, Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM06

Photo by: XPB Images

Bianchi told Autosport on Friday: "Even if the plan was to stay a third driver for two years, now the plan has changed and I'm ready."

A source, however, told the Deccan Chronicle newspaper that 2012 HRT driver Karthikeyan is now also a contender, thanks to a boost to his sponsorship coffers.

"As soon as Tata increased the budget for 2013, talks with Force India began," the source said.

"Unlike the past, the negotiation has been a lot more positive. If talks fail, he will probably go to America for (the) Indycar series".