Chandhok replaces Trulli at Lotus for German GP
21 July 2011
Karun Chandhok will race for Team Lotus in the upcoming German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, after the team announced that Jarno Trulli will be 'rested' for the weekend – although Tony Fernandes reveals that the Anglo/Malaysian outfit is presently 'negotiating an extension' to the Italian's contract.
Chandhok was confirmed as Team Lotus' reserve driver on the eve of the F1 2011 World Championship curtain-raiser in Australia back in March, and the popular Indian has since competed in Friday practice sessions on four separate occasions, in Melbourne – albeit ignominiously crashing on his first 'out' lap after leaving the pits on cold tyres on his debut for the team – Istanbul, Valencia and last time out at Silverstone.
As part of his agreement, Chandhok was promised an opportunity to prove himself in a competitive situation this season with a view to being promoted to one of Lotus' two race cockpits in 2012, and although this was expected to be in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix at the end of October – which he is nonetheless still tipped to enter – it appears that opportunity is coming rather earlier than anticipated.
“Firstly, I want to thank Tony Fernandes, Kamarudin Meranun and SM Nasarudin for giving me the chance to race this weekend for Team Lotus,” enthused the 27-year-old, for whom there is a nice symmetry in returning to the grand prix grid at the Nürburgring, as it was on the eve of the 2010 German Grand Prix – then at Hockenheim – that he was dropped by previous employer Hispania Racing (HRT) twelve months ago.
“Ever since I joined the team, I have been looking forward to this opportunity and I am determined to do my best to repay their faith in me and help the team progress, this season and for many years to come. I am approaching the weekend in a very realistic frame of mind. I will be doing my best to push and to make sure I learn as much as possible all weekend, take each session as it comes and work as closely as I can with the engineers and the whole team to do the best job I can.
“Whatever happens, I am very excited about lining up on the grid on Sunday and I know there will be millions of Indian fans, and Team Lotus fans around the world, who will be behind me and the whole team, so I will do the best I can to give them something to cheer for.”
“I am looking forward to my first visit to the German Grand Prix, even more so now we have announced that Karun will be competing in his first full race weekend for Team Lotus,” added team principal Fernandes. “Ever since I first met Karun, I have been impressed with his whole demeanour – he is talented, passionate, committed and he brings great energy to the whole team – so I am delighted that we are giving him the chance to add even more value to us in the cockpit over a whole race weekend.
“One of the key goals of Team Lotus is to provide a stepladder to the top of world motorsport for talent from all over the world, and we have been true to that philosophy since the first days of the team. For F1 to continue to develop globally, we need to keep creating new opportunities for talent from around the world to reach the top – and Team Lotus will continue to do its best to support that.
“As a young Asian driver, Karun faces even more obstacles to achieving his goals than his counterparts from the established motorsport homelands in the West, both from inside and outside F1, and I am very proud to be able to give him this chance on merit.”
“I am delighted that we are able to give Karun a full weekend in the car,” concurred Team Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “He has been a very good addition to our driver line-up, and now we are giving him a chance to take the next step in fulfilling his potential. We will use Karun's feedback over the weekend as a comparison against Jarno and Heikki's experiences this season with a number of aspects of the car, including the power steering system, to help us keep moving forward in 2011 and beyond.
“I am sure Karun will acquit himself very well in this and in his performances in and out of the car all weekend. The whole team is looking forward to helping him get the most out of his time in the cockpit in Germany, and it will be good to see him grab this chance and make the most of it.”
Trulli, for his part, confessed that he was 'looking forward to working with Karun this weekend and doing whatever I can to help him get the most out of his opportunity in Germany', adding: “It's great that the team is true to its word of helping to develop young talent, particularly from parts of the world where it is even harder to break through into the top rung of motorsport, so I'll be there to give [Chandhok] guidance and assistance, in and out of the car.”
Trulli has struggled in F1 2011 to-date with a lack of 'feel' from the power steering system on the Renault-powered T128, consequently finding himself out-qualified eight-one by team-mate Heikki Kovalainen – for one of the field's renowned Saturday afternoon specialists, an alarming statistic indeed.
The 37-year-old veteran will return to the car for the Hungarian Grand Prix a week later – when Lotus plans to introduce a new power steering system – but his Nürburgring replacement by Chandhok is almost certainly a strong hint from the team that he must raise his game if he is to stay there until season's end.
The former Monaco Grand Prix-winner has already conceded that this year may be his last on the grid – with the suspicion being that he will remain at Lotus in 2012, only no longer on the driving strength.
“I want to take this chance to thank Jarno for helping to make Karun's opportunity this weekend possible,” underlined Fernandes. “He has been extremely accommodating in stepping to the side for this race, and our commitment to him is unwavering.
“I am delighted to confirm that we are in the process of negotiating an extension to his contract with us, and we are all looking forward to unveiling the details of that very soon. He is a key member of our team, and I hope that we can give him a car as soon as possible that allows him to utilise his very large talents to the full. For this weekend, he will be on-hand to lend his considerable experience and support to Karun and I am sure Jarno, Heikki and Karun will do me, the whole team and all our fans very proud indeed.”