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Chandhok says no Stefan GP deal...yet – as Villeneuve enters frame

18 February 2010

Karun Chandhok has dismissed suggestions that he has already signed for F1 2010 hopeful Stefan GP, the Serbian outfit aiming to join the starting grid at the eleventh hour this season should any of the accepted entries fail to make the grade – as the name of former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has also seemingly entered the equation.

It was reported in some quarters yesterday that Chandhok – who impressed on his sole F1 test outing to-date, for Red Bull Racing at Barcelona towards the end of 2007 – is poised to become only the second Indian driver ever to reach the highest level [see separate story – click here], following in the wheel tracks of ground-breaking compatriot Narain Karthikeyan, who made history when he competed for Jordan in 2005, with a highlight of fourth place in the largely-boycotted US Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

Increasing doubts over the participation of both USF1 [see separate story – click here] and Campos Meta 1 could yet open the door to Stefan GP, which has the backing of the sport's influential commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone and has taken over both the TF110 chassis' and Cologne operating headquarters of the defunct Toyota F1 operation as it endeavours to join the fray.

The Zoran Stefanovic-led concern also has plans to test its first S01 contender at either Portimão in Portugal or else Barcelona later this month – but Chandhok, who can allegedly bring some $6 million in sponsorship with him, is adamant that no deal is done...not yet, at least.

“Lots of questions about the internet stories from yesterday...” the popular 26-year-old GP2 Series race-winner wrote on his personal Twitter account. “To clarify, at the moment there is no agreement with Stefan GP... Trust me, if I had an F1 deal signed and confirmed, I would shout it out proudly from the rooftops!”

1997 world champion Villeneuve has come into the reckoning given Ecclestone's predilection to see as many high-profile names back in F1 as possible, and should the French-Canadian – who was previously also linked with both USF1 and Lotus – indeed make a comeback, he would be the fifth title-winner in the 2010 field alongside returning legend Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, equalling an all-time record in the sport.

Ralf Schumacher is another man rumoured to be in contention to partner ex-Williams F1 ace Kazuki Nakajima, who appears to be all-but a shoo-in for a seat at Stefan GP after Stefanovic told 422race.com that one of the two drivers 'will be Japanese', ostensibly as part of Toyota's agreement to sell on its equipment and facilities.

“We are in various negotiations, but it has not been sorted out completely yet,” he revealed. “We are very close to [deciding], and very shortly we will be announcing the drivers officially. We are very near, but we still cannot confirm any names yet.”


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