* Karthikeyan joins HRT’s oldest F1 pairing in years
* Vitantonio Liuzzi’s hopes to retain HRT drive over (Recasts, adding byline and fresh Karthikeyan quotes)
By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI, Feb 3 (Reuters) - India’s Narain Karthikeyan joined Pedro de la Rosa in HRT’s 2012 lineup on Friday - their combined age making it Formula One’s oldest driving pairing in years.
The 35-year-old Indian won back a seat in the car he lost last year and will now partner Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, who turns 41 on Feb 24.
“I am pleased to count on Narain for this season, as he will contribute continuity and stability,” team principal Luis Perez-Sala was quoted as saying in a statement by the Spanish team.
“He is a quick, intuitive and secure driver who met his expectations despite a lack of continuity last year. Of the eight grands prix he contested in 2011, he only failed to finish on one occasion and had a great performance in the last race he took part in.”
The move also ended Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi’s hopes of retaining a drive with the Spanish team.
Talking to reporters in Delhi, Karthikeyan shot down suggestions that the drivers’ age could be a drawback for the team.
“Honestly, it’s not a factor at all. I can point out five-six drivers who are in their mid-30s and above. Michael Schumacher is 40-plus, (Mark) Webber in his mid-30s, so am I. How does it matter?” he asked.
“As long as you are fit, your reflex is okay and as long as you have not had a big accident, I think you should be okay.”
Karthikeyan became the first Indian Formula one driver when he made his 2005 debut with Jordan and returned to the series with HRT at the start of last year after five years out.
Midway through the 2011 campaign, HRT replaced him with Daniel Ricciardo and the Chennai-born Karthikeyan acted as a test driver for four of the remaining rounds, apart from when he raced for the team at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.
Karthikeyan replaced Liuzzi for his home race in October and finished ahead of Ricciardo, now at Toro Rosso.
That 17th place finish helped him secure another season with HRT.
“Ricciardo was the blue-eyed boy and I beat him despite being low on practice,” Karthikeyan said.
“I believe it really made an impact on the team management. Make no mistake, there are drivers with more resources and it would be wrong to say that I secured the drive just because of sponsorship,” added the Indian.
While de la Rosa would be behind the wheel at next week’s pre-season tests at Jerez in Spain, Karthikeyan would join the team for the second tests in Barcelona scheduled from Feb. 21-24, the team added.
(Writing by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Pritha Sarkar; To comment on this story: email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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