Kumar Ram Narain Karthikeyan was born in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India. His interest in motorsport began at an early age, as his father was a former Indian national rally champion. With the ambition of becoming India's first Formula One driver, Karthikeyan finished on the podium in his first ever race, at Sriperumpudur. He then went onto the Elf Winfield Racing School in France, showing his talent by becoming a semi-finalist in the Pilote Elf Competition for Formula Renault cars in 1992.
He returned to India to race in Formula Maruti for the 1993 season, and in the same year, he also competed in the Formula Vauxhall Junior championship in Great Britain. This gave him valuable experience in European racing, and he was keen to return for the following year.
In 1994, he returned to the UK, racing in the Formula Ford Zetec series as the number two works Vector driver for the Foundation Racing team. The highlight of the season was a podium finish in a support race for the Portuguese Grand Prix held at Estoril. Karthikeyan also took part in the British Formula Ford Winter Series, and became the first Indian to win any championship in Europe.
1995 saw Karthikeyan graduate to the Formula Asia Championship for just four races. However, he showed pace immediately and was able to finish second in the race at Shah Alam, Malaysia. In 1996, he had a full season in the series and became the first Indian and the first Asian to win the Formula Asia International series. He moved back to Britain in 1997 to compete in the British Formula Opel Championship, taking a pole position and win at Donington Park and finishing sixth in the overall points standings.
In 1998, Karthikeyan made his debut in the British Formula 3 Championship with the Carlin Motorsport team. Competing in only 10 rounds, he managed two 3rd place finishes in the final two races of the season, at Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone, to finish 12th overall. He continued in the championship for 1999, finishing on the podium 5 times, including two wins at Brands Hatch. His season also included two pole positions, three fastest laps and two lap records, helping him to 6th in the championship out of 30 drivers. He also competed in the Macau Grand Prix, qualifying in 6th position and finishing 6th in the second race. Continuing his drive in the British F3 Championship in 2000, he finished 4th overall in the standings, and also took pole position and fastest laps in the Macau Grand Prix. He also won both the International F3 race at Spa-Francorchamps and the Korean Super Prix.
Karthikeyan started 2001 in the Formula Nippon F3000 Championship, finishing the year amongst the top ten. In the same year, he became the first Indian to ever drive an F1 car, testing for the Jaguar Racing team at Silverstone on June 14. Impressed with his performance, he was then offered a test drive in the Jordan-Honda EJ11 at Silverstone in September. Karthikeyan again tested for Jordan, at Mugello in Italy on October 5, finishing just half a second off the pace off Jordan's lead driver Jean Alesi.
In 2002, he moved into the Telefonica World Series with Team Tata RC Motorsport, taking a pole position and setting the fastest non-F1 lap time at the Interlagos Circuit in Brazil. Moving to the World Series by Nissan in 2003, Karthikeyan won two races and took three other podium positions on his way to 4th overall in the championship. These results earned him other Formula One test drive, this time with the Minardi team. He was offered a race drive for the 2004 season, but was unable to raise the necessary sponsorship funds to seal the deal. During the year, he also married his wife Pavarna.
He continued in the Nissan World Series in 2004, taking wins in Valencia, Spain and Magny-Cours, France.
With backing from the Tata Group, Narain Karthikeyan joined the Formula One circus in 2005 with the Jordan Toyota team. It turned out to be a rather turbulent first season as his aggressive driving did not produce results.
In the US Grand Prix, just six cars took the start. Karthikeyan drove an error free race to take fourth place behind his team-mate to secure his first points. It was his only top ten finish in a disappointing season.
For 2006 he joined Williams Cosworth as a test driver. With Alex Wurz already on its books as a third driver, Karthikeyan only got a few outings in the FW28 during 2006.
He remains with Williams in 2007 and will be hoping to get more mileage than he did in 2006.