Force India F1 team boss Dr Vijay Mallya has defended his decision to replace Giancarlo Fisichella with Vitantonio Liuzzi for the remainder of the 2009 F1 season, instead of drafting in home-grown star Karun Chandhok.

Mallya was left with a free seat after Fisichella was released to Ferrari. However the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire has come under criticism after plumping for test and reserve driver, Liuzzi. Indeed F1 boss, Bernie Eccelstone is amongst those to have expressed his 'disappointment' along with F1 fans in India [see separate story click here.]

In an attempt to appease his fellow countrymen though, Mallya has now revealed that he has offered the man from Chennai a go in the team's F1 simulator to see how he performs.

However, Mallya added that in his view Chandhok still needs to deliver consistently in GP2, F1's feeder series, before he can be considered for an F1 seat. Karun has scored 10 points this year in GP2 with Ocean Racing Technology and he currently lies joint 16th in the standings.

"The entire issue has got too dramatised," Mallya told PTI (Press Trust of India). "I have been discussing the issue with Karun Chandhok and have already agreed to put him in the driver simulator to see how he handles the F1 car.

"At the end of the day, Karun must win some [more] GP2 races and come out good in F1 simulator in which I put him in. And if he is competitive in the simulator, I would be the first one to offer him a position in Force India."

Meanwhile, following his team's inaugural points and podium finish at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago, Mallya is in a buoyant mood about their prospects at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

Indeed while he doesn't expect the Silverstone-based outfi to do quite so well, he will be looking for Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil to get some more points.

"We went to Spa with a continuation of our Valencia upgrade, which we knew would give a big step up," he continued. "We genuinely believed we would get two cars into Q2 and be at the top of this session, but pole was beyond even our hopes!

"But after that we set the bar very high and the podium was just a dream. I think we will be hard pushed to repeat this in Monza but we certainly will go there confident we can surprise a few people. I don't think anyone would count us out now.

"If you are quick in Spa generally you will go well in Monza so I would hope we would be again top of Q2 and in the hunt for points. I do think KERS will play a big part this time in Monza so, as Kimi [Raikkonen] showed in Spa, it may be difficult to run ahead or stay ahead of the KERS-equipped cars. That's not to say we won't give it a good shot though.

"We obviously have a new race driver pairing in Adrian and Tonio, but the two of them have been team-mates for the past one and a half years. They know each other well, they know how the team operates and they know the cars so we really should be able to pick up where we left off in Spa.

"I expect Tonio will take some time to get up to speed on Friday but I think he will be on it pretty much by qualifying. I am sure that's his goal as well."


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