GP2 Series veteran Karun Chandhok has revealed that he has 'three very realistic possibilities' to graduate to F1 in 2010 – as he congratulated his former team-mate Bruno Senna on his own success in finally making the grade with newcomer Campos Meta.
Chandhok finished the 2009 GP2 campaign a lowly 18th in the title standings – by some margin his worst finish in three seasons in the F1 feeder category, and highlighted only by a solitary podium finish at Silverstone, appropriately enough his adopted 'home' circuit given his residence in nearby Brackley. That aside, pickings were few and far between as Ocean Racing Technology (ORT) – with whom he was competing – grappled with the inevitable difficulties that any team new to the championship traditionally faces.
However, a subsequent testing appearance for Coloni provided a positive feeling, and has left the popular Indian with high hopes of following in the wheel tracks of countryman Narain Karthikeyan and finding his way onto the grand prix grid in 2010 – something that has thus far persistently eluded him, despite close links with both F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and Force India chairman and team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya, who fears the 25-year-old is still not ready but has promised him a try-out in the McLaren simulator as a chance to prove his worth.
“I was really pleased to get back in the car after two months and be straight on the pace,” the man from Chennai reflected of his Coloni outing at Paul Ricard in southern France. “On my third timed lap I went to the top of the times, which was a nice feeling after a tough season.
“I ended up sixth at the end after some traffic on my final run, but overall it was mainly a good chance for me to take some rust off and make sure I'm race-ready in case any other opportunities come along in the near future. I have to admit that there was some competitive pleasure to finish a fair bit ahead of both Ocean cars at the test!
“I've been training hard – I've been on the bike, in the pool or in the gym pretty much every single day pushing like mad, and it's been quite nice to train properly without travelling around every week. I've just crossed the 4,000km mark on my cycle for the year, which is pretty good considering all the travel I think!
“My father, our sponsors, advisors and I have been quite busy at following the driver market in F1 and making sure we're talking to the right people, but it's a very complicated time in F1 with a lot of unknowns. We've met with all the new teams and some of the existing ones to explore options for 2010, but at the moment all that has been written is purely speculation and nothing has been confirmed.
“At the moment, I would say there are still three very realistic possibilities to race in F1 next year, but I don't think anything will be public for a few more weeks. Of the 26 pieces in the F1 driver puzzle there are only maybe ten that are in place, so there's still a lot up in the air and I am optimistic that something will work out.”
Aside from racing this year, Chandhok has also been entertaining fans with his expert and engaging commentary for Indian TV – something he describes as 'great fun...it's been interesting to watch the races from another perspective in terms of following and understanding the strategies that the teams use to gain an advantage' – and even if he proves unsuccessful in his bid to secure an F1 drive in 2010, the inaugural Formula Asia V6 by Renault Champion will at least be able to track the progress of 2008 iSport International team-mate Senna.
“I am genuinely pleased for him,” he underlined. “Bruno is a friend and we get along very well together. I think it's great for F1 to have the Senna name back. He is definitely a very fast driver and he deserves his place in F1, and I believe he has a good financial sponsorship package which probably made him an even more attractive option for the team.
“We were very evenly-matched in terms of speed – I don't think we were ever more than a couple of tenths apart, and therefore we built a healthy amount of respect for each other as two team-mates pushing each other. From a technical side, we worked very well together but more than anything, we actually grew to become friends, which is very rare for team-mates. His family are lovely people who have been through a very tough time, not only with the loss of Ayrton but also Bruno's father who got killed soon after Ayrton, and I'm very pleased they've got the Senna name back to F1.”