Karun Chandhok acknowledges that his move from former champions iSport International to all-new outfit Ocean Racing Technology (ORT) for the 2009 GP2 Series campaign is 'a risk' and may constitute a step backwards at first, but he remains confident of surprising a few people as the season progresses.
Entering his third year in Formula 1's feeder category, Chandhok would undoubtedly have been considered one of the prime candidates for the title had he remained with one of the leading teams, but with sufficient funding unable to be found – particularly against the backdrop of a global credit crunch – the Indian was forced to re-assess his options.
Fortunately for the twice race-winner, he found a supporter and ally in the shape of Tiago Monteiro, the former grand prix ace-turned-touring car front-runner, who invited him to join ORT, a squad he has set up in partnership with Enrique Scalabroni and Jaime Pintanel from the remains of what used to be BCN Competicion. Clearly already at home in his new environment, it is nice, Chandhok admits, to be doing without any of the 'bullsh*t'.
“Of course it's a risk, for sure,” the 25-year-old told Crash.net Radio
, on having joined forces with the only GP2 concern never to have won a race in the championship. “The easy option would be to go to iSport or ART or Campos or Piquet, but unfortunately with the current economic climate, those four options were not possible for me, given the budget that I had.
“Then you start to look beyond those four, and Tiago and his partners made a very interesting case. I think the people involved make it the next-best choice outside of the top teams, but of course it's a risk, because it's a completely new team. Tiago knows that, it's no secret, but that's the good thing – he's a racing driver, so I don't need to bullsh*t to him.
“When we were doing the deal early on, back in October or November last year, he said 'look Karun, I know what it's like, you're going to try to go to one of the top four teams, but if you can't do that then give us a call and we'll talk'. That's a good thing to having him around, because he understands the game. He's not just a suit; he understands what the business is.”
Indeed, the two men share a strong rapport, and prior knowledge of many of the team members is a factor that is evidently helping Chandhok as he prepares to take on the challenge ahead. Though he has elected to give the pre-season Asia Series a miss this year – after demonstrating blistering pace twelve months ago only to invariably run out of luck come race day – the inaugural Formula Asia V6 by Renault Champion insists he is in better shape than ever.
“To be honest, last year I did the Asia Series and we started in the first week of January, testing in Dubai,” he explained. “I didn't then stop until November; I don't think I had more than ten days in the same country during that time. Once the season had ended and I actually had a month of being in India and training and stuff, I realised how exhausted I was.
“It's a lot, you know; it's one thing testing and racing for the European season, but also racing and testing right from January for both series, it can actually get quite exhausting. The break has actually been really good – I've trained more than I've ever trained before, and it's been really nice to have some time off over the winter and just work on all of that. I'm now ready for Europe – I feel rested and prepared better than ever.