F1 2010 rookie Karun Chandhok has spoken out to dismiss speculation that his seat at financially-struggling newcomer Hispania Racing is under threat – revealing that the Spanish outfit has some 'very interesting' future plans and arguing that he has already proven himself to be a 'respectable' member of the grand prix grid.
There have been whispers of late about the safety of both Chandhok's place at HRT and also that of team-mate Bruno Senna, with the suggestion being that one or the other might find himself supplanted by a better-heeled rival should the sponsorship money they are bringing to the Murcia-based operation run dry.
The likes of ex-F1 ace Christijan Albers – who has worked with team principal Dr. Colin Kolles before at Midland F1 and subsequently Spyker, and since then also at Kolles Audi in sportscars – Chandhok's ground-breaking countryman Narain Karthikeyan, GP2 Series race-winner Pastor Maldonado and the team's test and reserve drivers Sakon Yamamoto and Christian Klien have all been mooted as potential replacements.
“There is so much speculation and I don't know if it is being started by other drivers who are trying to get in or whatever,” Chandhok told Reuters
when pressed about the rumours emanating from his national media. “Three weeks ago, Bruno was the one. All over the internet it was 'Bruno is out and so-and-so is coming in with money', and this week it seems to be my turn.
“It's no secret that all three of the new teams need more sponsors and more investment. It's very difficult for new teams today, because the top teams are able to offer really cut-price deals, a lot cheaper than before. Any sponsor who has got even a few million is able to do a cheap deal with a top team, unfortunately for the smaller ones – but as far as I know I am in Valencia, I am in the car and I am in for the rest of the season.”
Although Senna leads the qualifying duel between the pair seven-one, it is Chandhok who has taken the most chequered flags, finishing six of the eight grands prix to-date compared to his team-mate's tally of two. In terms of race pace, there has in truth generally been little to choose between the duo, and even if he looks consigned to doing battle at the wrong end of the order for the foreseeable future, the Chennai native is more optimistic about what the future holds for Hispania.
“The first thing is to see what the possibility is at HRT, because they do have a good plan in-place for the future,” he mused, when asked about 2011. “It's not been made public yet because there are still a few things to be worked out I think from their side, but from what [team owner] José Ramón [Carabante] told us in Montreal, the 2011 programme looks very interesting for them.
“It's certainly something that you have to think about very seriously. I think they (HRT) seem very happy with me from the start of the season; they have been very supportive and publicly [are] saying how happy they are with the job I'm doing, so that's obviously the first place to start. Beyond that, who knows?”
The other team Chandhok has been linked with, of course – and repeatedly – is Force India F1, with many eager to see only the second Indian driver ever to reach the highest level join forces with the country's first team in the top flight. The Silverstone-based squad has impressively transformed itself from the butt of paddock jokes as 'Tail-end Charlie' in its erstwhile guises as Midland and Spyker, to an established midfield competitor capable of regularly vying for the top ten on the starting grid and points on race day.
The 26-year-old confessed recently that he would be very keen to one day race for Force India [see separate story – click here
] – and surely an Indian driver in an Indian car for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix due to be held next year would be both a promoter and a sponsor's dream – but despite being a long-time family friend, team owner Dr. Vijay Mallya has invariably been cool on the topic.
“It's a logical link people would make for me and Force India,” Chandhok acknowledged. “I think now I've proved to be a respectable F1 driver, and they are obviously now a very respectable midfield F1 team. From a commercial point-of-view, it makes sense for them to have [an Indian driver]. It's tough to raise sponsorship in the market, but it's even tougher if you've got an Indian driver and an Indian team in two different camps.”