In the face of widespread concerns over the fact that Hispania Racing's 2010 contender has yet to so much as turn a wheel on the eve of the F1 World Championship campaign this weekend, Karun Chandhok has insisted that he has absolutely 'no question marks regarding the safety angle' – whilst acknowledging that the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix will not by any stretch of the imagination witness 'a Lewis Hamilton debut'.
The eleventh-hour takeover of the financially-struggling Campos Meta 1 operation by chief shareholder and team president José Ramón Carabante late last month gave the unfortunately re-named HRT precious little time to get preparations back on-track following months of uncertainty, particularly in light of the fact that chassis-builder Dallara had downed tools in response to repeated failures to pay.
New team principal Colin Kolles acknowledged that the Spanish outfit faced 'an impossible race against time', but it is a race that has been won, with Chandhok and team-mate Bruno Senna now preparing to take to the track in the desert kingdom for their respective top flight debuts. The only issue is, time was so short that no testing was possible – not even a shakedown run – meaning that HRT is heading completely into the unknown, what has been blasted by 13-time grand prix-winner David Coulthard as flagrantly 'irresponsible', with the BBC pundit pointing out that F1 is 'not a finishing school' [see separate story – click here
McLaren Racing managing director Jonathan Neale has concurred that he 'would not like to be in the position of having my car run for the first time on Friday', questioning 'how on earth you dial it in with such limited running' and opining that the car will likely be 'a real handful' [see separate story – click here
]. The Englishman added that 'if there are big gaps in terms of closing speed and lots of red flags, then the FIA will have to look into it'.
However, whilst Chandhok acknowledges that the circumstances are hardly ideal, the second Indian ever to reach the highest level – following in the wheel tracks of groundbreaking compatriot Narain Karthikeyan with Jordan Grand Prix five years ago – rejects notions that in joining the fray completely untried and untested, HRT will represent a danger to both itself and rival competitors in Sakhir
“I have driven Dallara Formula 3 cars, World Series cars, GP2 cars,” the 26-year-old told British broadsheet the Daily Telegraph
. “They are a reputed manufacturer, so when they say that the car is safe I have no question marks regarding the safety angle.
“It's not going to be a Lewis Hamilton debut, I won't lie to you – if we finish the race it will be a minor miracle – but these are the cards we have been dealt with. No-one is holding a gun to my head. This is what I choose to do – race in F1. This is the opportunity I have got.
“I mean, if the testing regulations were the way they were when DC (Coulthard) started at Williams, then you would say 'Okay, I will be a test driver with a top team and then hope one of the drivers breaks his leg' – but the way the rules are, it doesn't make that much sense anymore.”
Indeed, following a trio of mixed campaigns in the feeder GP2 Series and an eye-catching test outing for Red Bull Racing at Barcelona in late 2007, HRT represents Chandhok's big break in allowing him to finally achieve what so many fail to accomplish – graduation to the grand prix grid. Admitting to being 'overwhelmed' by the level of support he has received since his official confirmation as an F1 driver a week ago today, his first aim now is to repay the faith that has been displayed in him – and make his country proud.