Bernie Ecclestone has revealed his 'disappointment' that Force India F1 chairman Dr Vijay Mallya did not replace Giancarlo Fisichella with home-grown star Karun Chandhok for the remainder of the 2009 world championship campaign – insisting that 'we need to get Karun in a Formula 1 car quickly'.
Following Fisichella's release to take the place of the underperforming Luca Badoer at Ferrari from the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend, Mallya found himself in need of another driver to fill the breach left by the Roman's departure – but despite his repeated proclamations that he is keen to nurture and promote up-and-coming young Indian stars, the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire plumped instead for FIF1 test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, much to the disenchantment of Indian fans.
With F1 commercial rights-holder Ecclestone eager to see an Indian driver in the top flight to raise the profile of the sport in the country and give a boost to the prospect of an Indian Grand Prix appearing on the calendar from 2011, it is time, the 78-year-old insists, that Chandhok was given his chance to prove his worth at the highest level and become the second of his countrymen – after Narain Karthikeyan back in 2005 – to break into the top flight.
A multiple race-winner in the feeder GP2 Series, the man from Chennai is the obvious candidate – and has already impressed the grand prix fraternity with his testing pace for Red Bull Racing at Barcelona in late 2007, lapping within seven tenths of a second of RBR regular and 13-time grand prix-winner David Coulthard.
“I was hoping Vijay would give Karun a chance,” Ecclestone told the Hindustan Times
, “and I'm a little disappointed that he has put the Italian guy in… Whether he has to do this by contract I don't know, but I would've liked to see Karun in the car for the rest of the season.
“We need to get Karun in the Formula 1 car quickly. We haven't seen him in a Formula 1 car to know, but there's no reason why he shouldn't perform. He has got the talent and the ability, so it's a case of somebody just getting on and doing it now.”