Hispania Racing (HRT) recruit Karun Chandhok has been welcomed into F1 by the sport's most powerful figure, a certain Bernie Ecclestone, with the influential Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive predicting that only the second Indian in the history of the top flight can go on to achieve great things.
Chandhok will join forces with friend, former iSport International GP2 Series team-mate and fellow grand prix rookie Bruno Senna at the newly-owned and re-named Campos Meta 1 outfit in 2010, having been officially unveiled by the Spanish operation in Murcia earlier this week [see separate story – click here
The 26-year-old from Chennai will also be following in the wheel tracks of compatriot Narain Karthikeyan, who broke new ground when he graduated to F1 with Jordan Grand Prix five years ago. The A1GP race-winner, however, departed the scene after just a single campaign that yielded a best finish of fourth place in the largely-boycotted US Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
Ecclestone hopes his countryman hangs around rather longer – and clearly believes that the popular GP2 race-winner has the talent and potential to do just that.
“India is rapidly growing to be one of the most important and powerful players in the world of business, culture and sport,” the British billionaire affirmed in a statement, “and at FOM we look at India very seriously. We have an Indian F1 team on the grid, we will have an Indian Grand Prix thanks to the Jaypee Group in 2011 and so it seems only right that there should be an Indian driver in Formula 1.
“I am very happy to see that Karun has finally secured his place on the Formula 1 grid. It's been a bit last-minute, but the main thing is that he is here and with a team that should provide him [with] stability and a chance to learn.
“Formula 1 is a very tough business, with the best drivers in the world competing in the best cars and on the most challenging race circuits in the world. That is why it is the pinnacle of [the] sport, and while I believe it's going to take Karun until mid-season to be able to show his potential, I wish him all the very best for this season and look forward to seeing the Indian media and public get behind him this year!”
That admiration, meanwhile, is clearly mutual, with Chandhok enthusing that 'Bernie has always been a superb pillar of support to me and my family – it's amazing how much that man can do in a single day' according to The Sun
, adding: “This last winter has been very hard and it's taken us a while to get a deal sorted. There are always times when you have doubts, but in the end it all worked out okay.”