Flying in the face of comments made by Force India F1 managing director and team principal Vijay Mallya last week, a number of the sport's leading figures have come out in support of GP2 Series star Karun Chandhok, claiming that he deserves to be in the top flight.

In explaining his retention of both Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil at the Silverstone-based squad in 2009, Mallya suggested that neither Chandhok - who has won two races in Formula 1's feeder category, at Spa-Francorchamps in 2007 and Hockenheim in 2008, and tested impressively for Red Bull Racing at Barcelona in late 2007 - nor compatriot Narain Karthikeyan are good enough for promotion.

Whilst A1GP star Karthikeyan has angrily responded to accusations that he would 'not fit in' by describing Force India as a team that is 'low on performance and loud on talk' [see separate story - click here], Chandhok has maintained a judicious silence, but others have sprung to his defence.

"The time is getting closer for Formula 1 to be in India, which is something I am really enthusiastic about," F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone - who intends adding an Indian Grand Prix to the sport's calendar in 2011 - told the Hindustan Times.

"Hopefully Karun will be part of it. His place is in Formula 1."

"Karun has the potential and he has the speed," added Bruno Senna, the 24-year-old's 2008 GP2 team-mate at iSport International. "He can only be judged after a proper opportunity."

Mallya argued that Chandhok did not impress sufficiently in F1's ante-chamber this year, whilst Karthikeyan previously competed in the uppermost echelon for Jordan Grand Prix back in 2005, and was a test driver for Williams until the end of the 2007 season.

Following that he went on to race in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, securing his nation's maiden international success at such a high level at Zhuhai in China twelve months ago.

"F1 is all about the car you are given," contended Karthikeyan's Jordan team-mate from three years ago, current SEAT World Touring Car Championship ace Tiago Monteiro. "Give Narain a race-winning car and he will win races, I can guarantee you."

"I disagree with the statement (made by Mallya)," added legendary former double F1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi. "A non-grand prix driver cannot give an opinion as to a driver's abilities.

"When Narain drove in F1, he did not have a competitive chassis or technical package. He's capable of winning grands prix in a good car."

According to the Hindustan Times, Mallya 'has repeatedly stressed that the UK media knows far more about the sport than the relatively inexperienced writers on the sport in India', and another of those to question the judgement of the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire is erstwhile Williams team manager and respected British F1 journalist Peter Windsor.

"It's amusing when people who have made a lot of money come to F1 and make such ridiculous statements," Windsor asserted. "It makes one wonder how they ever made that money!

"There is absolutely no question that Karun has the ability to do well. He is at least as good as Adrian Sutil."

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