Karun Chandhok has admitted that he might need sponsors to have faith in him if he is to keep his Formula One ride with Hispania Racing next season.
The Indian, who has shown well with limited equipment on his graduation to the top flight, admits that running with a back-of-the-grid team isn't the most attractive proposition for investors, even if they can see the benefit of the international exposure brought by F1, and is resigned to the fact that well-heeled rivals may get the chance to replace him next season.
Speaking exclusively to ESPN
, Chandhok confirmed that he was already holding talks with the Colin Kolles-run HRT operation, but conceded that he was not holding all the aces when it came to securing a second season.
"I've got a one-year contract with the team, but we will definitely talk about next year and the possibility of doing something together," he said, "They seem happy with the job I'm doing, but they need financial investment and, maybe, they'll look at drivers who can offer more money, I don't know.
"Certainly, they need to consider that, I'm sure. I know there are two or three people talking to them about next year, but I think we're in good shape.
"It's tricky, because in India sponsors are sitting on the fence. They've got an Indian driver who's getting a lot of press and lot of attention around the world, but admittedly he's at the back of the grid with a team that's at the back of the grid. So, do they invest with that or do they invest with an Indian team, which is really just Indian in owner and in name, but is further up the grid. Unfortunately, I think they are just sitting on the fence."
Chandhok insists that he is happy with his performances so far this season, with a brace of 14th place finishes from Australia and Monaco ensuring that HRT sits second in the 'newcomer' standings, with the best reliability record of the three start-up teams. Only Heikki Kovalainen's 13th place for Lotus from Melbourne is keeping the beleaguered Spanish outfit from occupying tenth overall, which would bring a healthy dose of prize money at the end of the campaign.
"I can only do the best job I can in the car," Chandhok insisted, "Don't forget the two guys at Lotus are race winners, experienced guys, while we are two rookies and we're starting to drive a bit better at every race.
"It's been a tough season, there is no doubt about it. We are lacking downforce, and that's essentially what we need to make the step forward. We are trying to do the best job we can with what we've got, [but] I think we are at a sort of stalemate with the other new teams, because the gap between us and Lotus was 1.7-1.8secs in Melbourne and it's more or less the same now.
"The thing is they've had aero upgrades and we haven't, and that's where the difference lies. We've had a small suspension upgrade, and, certainly, in Valencia, we made a good step forward with the electronics side of things. It's not necessarily changes to improve the car, but just changes to make me more comfortable and therefore improve the car. You've got all those setting on the steering wheel but you need to learn when to use what. When to use the diff, when to use the engine overrun and engine braking or hydraulic brake balance, there are so many variables on an F1 car. So far we're looking very competitive against [HRT team-mate] Bruno [Senna] and that's all I can do really."
One cause for optimism on the horizon for Chandhok is the Indian Grand Prix, which is due to join the schedule in 2011.
"It will help, there is no doubt about it, because there is nothing like watching an F1 car live," he admitted, "We all remember what it was like when we first saw an F1 car in person and I think that's what will make a difference in India."