Seventh place in the feature race at Taupo was cause for celebration in the Team India garage after Narain Karthikeyan delivered the nation its first ever points in A1 Grand Prix, the former F1 driver claiming he can now win before the end of the season.

Although the team's pace in practice and qualifying, brought on by the introduction of the country's most successful driver in history, indicated points were well in the offing, Karthikeyan nonetheless had to battle hard over the two races.

Conducting his first rolling start for some three years for the sprint race, Karthikeyan showed little sign of rustiness when he vaulted to seventh place from tenth on the grid by the first corner. However, when that start was aborted, Karthikeyan was forced to do it all over again, this time slipping to 12th position.

Getting caught up in the train behind the damaged Robbie Kerr, Karthikeyan was unable to progress beyond tenth place, even if it did nonetheless put him in position for points for the second race.

He duly didn't waste the opportunity, holding onto his position early on before moving up to ninth when South Africa served their drive-through penalty and then ahead of Italy through the pit stops. Running eighth for the majority of the race, Karthikeyan was heading for three hard earned points, but would actually cross the line seventh when Great Britain retired late in the race.

Together with a fastest lap that was only marginally slower than the benchmark set by Germany's Niko Hulkenberg, Karthikeyan was delighted with his first outing in A1 GP and was particularly proud to finally get India's first points.

"We leave with the first points for A1 Team India, so I'm really pleased, that was what I wanted, and we couldn't really have expected anything more with such little track time and data from the car," the former Jordan driver said. "We had a few problems in qualifying, but that improved today and we were pretty close to Germany [race winners] in lap times. All in all, it was a positive weekend.

With the first weekend under his belt, Karthikeyan has now set himself high expectations for the remainder of the season, insisting he can get India to the top of the podium before the year is out.

"We've got some valuable information to build on now and to win by the end of the season must be our goal. I've worked really well with the team, I have to say I've been really pleasantly surprised at how good and professional the team is. I really believe in the team now, and I think we will get some great results together this season."

 

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