Karun Chandhok has outlined the objectives for Hispania Racing (HRT) during its maiden campaign of competition in F1 2010 – pointing to credibility as being the immediate goal, followed by mounting more of a challenge and ultimately contending for late-season points.
Born out of the financially-stricken Campos Meta 1 operation in an eleventh-hour José Ramón Carabante-led rescue deal last month, it will be something of a minor victory in itself that HRT even makes the starting grid for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir this coming weekend, following the dramatic race against time the team has faced given that all work on the Dallara-built chassis' had stopped prior to the takeover in response to repeated failures to pay.
The consequent delay means no testing was possible before the two Cosworth-powered machines were shipped out to the desert kingdom, and as such Friday practice will act as the car's official shakedown run, with qualifying and race day little more than glorified testing opportunities.
Inevitably, not much is expected from the Spanish outfit in the initial stages, but Chandhok's team-mate and fellow rookie Bruno Senna has opined that in time HRT can not only get on terms with, but even overtake rival newcomers Virgin and Lotus [see separate story – click here
] – and the second Indian ever to reach the top flight broadly agrees.
“I am under no illusions about what we're in for,” the 26-year-old told the official F1 website. “At the end of the day, we will be a new team with two rookies and no testing at all, so the first few races will be very hard indeed – the first race will just be like a test session.
“Our goal early on in the season is to show the world that we are a credible company,” he added, speaking to Indian newspaper the Deccan Herald
. “The focus is to gain some mileage, reliability and experience in the first season. We'll probably be off the mark in the first four races, but from Catalunya, Spain we will provide a challenge. You never know, we could also bag some points late in the season.”
Chandhok's graduation to the highest level has come off the back of three campaigns in the GP2 feeder series – the most recent of which fell some way short of expectations with former grand prix ace Tiago Monteiro's start-up squad Ocean Racing Technology (ORT), as he finished a lowly 18th in the title standings – and a highly impressive maiden test outing for Red Bull Racing at Barcelona in late 2007.
The popular Chennai native made a point of thanking HRT team principal Colin Kolles for the confidence he has placed in him, and he knows that now is the time to pay his new boss back. He also insisted that he bears Force India F1 chairman and close family friend Dr. Vijay Mallya no rancour, despite having been consistently overlooked by his countryman for either a race or test driving role at the Silverstone-based squad, with which his name was linked for some time. The Kingfisher Airlines billionaire, he explained, has since called to wish him good luck in his new venture.
“I believe that you have to take any opportunities life throws at you,” Chandhok stressed. “Of course everyone wants to drive for a top team, but if the opportunity isn't there you have to evaluate the options. Undoubtedly, I would rather be racing for HRT than be a test driver somewhere else under the new [test-limiting] regulations.
“I had a very disappointing 2009 season in GP2, but everyone had already made a note of my potential. After chasing a [Formula 1] seat for a long time, I finally found a great team to drive with. Colin Kolles has shown a lot of faith in me, and it helps to have the backing of someone who has known me for a long time in a sport like Formula 1.
“Force India required something else at that point in time, and they have now turned into a very good team. I hold nothing against Vijay. I wanted to drive in F1 and it didn't matter to me which team I drove for. My priority is to stay in F1 and give it my best. I will consider driving for Force India if an offer does pop up and if they are still on a high, in terms of racing.”