JANUARY 8, 2008
Jani looking at F1 again
Neel Jani, the 24-year-old Swiss driver who has been racing in Champ Car in 2007, is believed to be looking at opportunities to get back into Formula 1 in 2008. Jani raced for PKV Racing last year but it seems that the team is now looking elsewhere in 2008 and has signed Spain's Oriol Servia. This is an odd move given that Jani did a decent job in his rookie year.
He has also been doing well in the A1GP Series this winter with strong showings for A1 Team Switzerland.
Jani was a test driver for the Sauber Petronas team in 2004 and 2005 and was then named as the third driver of Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2006 season. For 2007 he decidded it was best to go back to racing but had funding for his efforts from Red Bull. His ambition remains to be a Formula 1 driver and it is worth noting that Red Bull Racing has yet to nominate a test driver for 2008. The work was done by several drivers in the course of 2007 with Michael Ammermuller starting the year before handing over to Sebastien Buemi. Beumi is probably too inexperienced to be much use to the team's engineers and it may be that they are pushing for someone with more time in F1. The obvious choice would be Tonio Liuzzi but the Italian seems to be weary of Red Bull politics and looks likely to end up with a testing role elsewhere, possibly with Force India, which was very keen on him until the decision was taken to use Giancarlo Fisichella.
Thus Jani might have some hope as a test driver with Red Bull Racing as the Austrian drinks company has lost a lot of its experienced youngsters in recent years because of decisions to use drivers like David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Sebastien Bourdais, none of whom came from a Red Bull background.
Jani may have one other ace up his sleeve. It is often forgotten that while he races under the Swiss flag, his father is an Indian, who originated in the western Indian state of Gujarat before marrying a Swiss woman and settling in Switzerland.
There is much talk of Indian drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok but it could be that the next Indian F1 driver will be Jani.