Narain Karthikeyan has revealed that he is unlikely to get his hands on the 2011-spec Hispania Racing entry until the final pre-season F1 test at the Bahrain International Circuit in early March.
The Indian, who makes his return to the top flight for the first time since a frustrating campaign with Jordan in 2005 and a season testing with Williams the following year, is due for a seat fitting this week, but that will be as important to make him comfortable in the Dallara-designed 2010 backmarker as it will for the new machine currently in build at HRT's German base. If it makes the Bahrain test, HRT will already be better placed than it was a year ago, when it unveiled its first car and drivers Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok on the eve of the opening race in Sakhir.
Speaking to the Times of India
newspaper, Karthikeyan admitted that he was hoping for largely dry conditions in the early tests so that he could both reacclimatise to an F1 car - the specification of which has changed significantly since his last serious outing - and assess his fitness levels which, despite competing in both sportscars and NASCAR Trucks since his F1 sojourn, need tuning to the forces that he will face in the HRT.
"Our new car won't be ready for the first three tests in Spain, where I will drive the 2010 car," the 33-year old confirmed, "[and] I hope the conditions in Valencia remain dry so that I can make use of the full time testing over there.
"The [rule] changes will make it more exciting, as it will further even out the differences between the big teams and the rest, [and] as drivers, we will have to adapt ourselves to the changes fast. I will have to do the same, [but] the fact that I was out of F1 won't be a handicap as I have been racing in other competitive series."
While the recent announcement that concept artist Daniel Simon has been appointed to give HRT a graphical makeover after last year's drab carbon black with yellow-and-red stripes affair has aroused some interest in the team's 2011 programme, Karthikeyan is more interested in getting his hands on the technical package that will be at his disposal this season.
"The car will look great, I am sure, and I am excited about it, but I am more excited about the advances in the technical side which, on paper, should make the car more competitive than last year," he admitted, "The biggest change will be the gearbox and hydraulics package from Williams - the car will have the Cosworth engine, coupled with the systems from Williams and, basically, the whole geometry around the engine will be the same as the Williams cars.
"We are not likely to use the KERS, but adjustable [rear] wings will hopefully add to our potency. F1 has always been evolving, and I believe it will make the sport even better."
Since dislocating his shoulder shortly before he was due to make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut, the Indian is determined not to let any physical weakness come between him and his dream of returning to F1. As a result, he has been following a strict fitness regime set out by trainer Ramji Srinivasan.
"Right now, the focus is on strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles," Karthikeyan revealed, "We have four tests before the race in Bahrain, the first in Valencia, followed by Jerez and Barcelona and then a four-day test in Bahrain a week before the season opener. The fans have an Indian driver and an Indian team to cheer for. With the entire country behind me, I will give my best as always and they won't be disappointed."