Karun Chandhok has acknowledged that whilst the odds might be stacked against him in 2010, his immediate goal in F1 is to gain credibility and respect from the establishment and 'make an impression with the people who matter and who can open new doors for me'.
Only the second Indian ever to reach the highest level – following in the wheel tracks of compatriot Narain Karthikeyan with Jordan Grand Prix five years earlier – Chandhok has admitted that whilst he was always expecting his bow in Bahrain to be tough, he wasn't expecting it to be quite as tough as it actually turned out to be, as he was unable even to complete a single lap ahead of qualifying and his race ended only two laps in when he found himself caught out by a bump on the circuit that he hadn't previously encountered [see separate story – click here
The goal for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne is to see the chequered flag, but even if that is still ostensibly rather a tall order for a team that has next-to-no running time under its belt with its Dallara-designed, Cosworth-powered contender, Chandhok remains adamant that start-up operation Hispania Racing (HRT) will
get there in the end.
“I would like to establish myself as a credible, respected F1 driver,” he told the Times of India
. “It's difficult to make an impression with a team which itself is not established, but I have to make an impression in the paddock. I have to make an impression with the people who matter and who can open new doors for me.
“The most thrilling moment was when I saw the car Dallara had made for me. Of course I had signed the contract before that and saw my name on the paper, but to see my car and make my seat sent thrills down my spine.
“[Bahrain] was surreal. The paddock was very welcoming. Most of the drivers welcomed me, and I met [Michael Schumacher] in the drivers' parade. It was very nice of him to come to me and introduce himself. He said 'hello' to me and then said 'welcome to the gang' and I talked to him briefly.
“His comeback is great for Formula 1. It suddenly brought back a whole lot of F1 viewers who had gone missing. Every sport needs superstars. You need Sachin Tendulkar, Roger Federer and Lance Armstrong. I feel despite all that has happened, golf badly needs a Tiger Woods.
“The season is going to be tough and I need all the support I can have. By the time we reach the middle of the season, the fight is to become the best of the new teams and to finish the season as the best new team. That would be a strong effort.”
Chandhok went on to insist that he bears no rancour towards countryman Dr. Vijay Mallya, with whose Force India outfit the 26-year-old was long linked only to be overlooked for either a race or testing role in the final reckoning – suggesting that it would be wise in this game never to say never.
“It would have been nice to have an Indian driver in an Indian team and if it happens in future, it would be nice for the country,” the Chennai native opined. “I'm happy Hispania gave me a chance to race. I have nothing personal against Vijay – it's his team, his business. He had contracts with both his drivers and he chose to honour that, so maybe the test drive was all they could offer – and after the new regulations came into being, it's always better to be a race driver than a test driver.”
With his Sakhir showing having been so short-lived, finally, Chandhok has revealed that he is treating the forthcoming race weekend as his true 'debut' in the top flight, having completed barely a handful of laps in the desert kingdom. The outing around Albert Park will also represent the GP2 Series race-winner's first real start in F1, having begun the Bahrain Grand Prix from the pit-lane – and at circuit he has never driven before to-boot...
“For me, my first weekend is Melbourne,” he told SPEEDtv.com
. “In Bahrain there was plenty of activity in the garage, but not much on the track! Over the weekend we did just four laps in qualifying. We had fuel on-board, we had the safety map for the engine because it was an installation run, and I wasn't really in qualy mode.
“We changed a lot of stuff because we hadn't run the car at all. In qualy I did installation laps and after installation laps, you have to take the car and check it out, so we started from the pits because we'd changed some stuff on the car. For my car it was a no-brainer.
“[On the second lap] I just caught a bump. Obviously we'd done no set-up work, we hadn't done anything, just a roll-out, so the car was not set up for the bumps. I found a bump that I didn't know existed because I'd not driven the new part of the circuit more than four timed laps in qualy. It just hit a bump, the car bounced more than I expected [and] got on the exit curb. I had no steering, I was on the plank and I just spun. It just kissed the barrier.
“I wasn't pushing, I just caught a bump at the wrong angle and it spat me off, just a legacy of not running the laps. It was just not doing enough mileage. We were not racing during the weekend, we were participating and we were testing...”