Karun Chandhok has admitted that it is likely that he will return to the GP2 Series for a third crack at the title in 2009, but is hoping to combine a championship-winning car with a full-time testing role in Formula One.
The Indian, whose misfortune in Sunday sprint races in this year's GP2 campaign served to restrict him to an unrepresentative tenth in the final standings, appears to acknowledge that he needs more experience before making the step up to racing
an F1 machine, following recent comments from fellow countryman and Force India team owner Vijay Mallya, but is keen to land a development deal that could help both his own chances and those of which ever team takes a chance on him.
“I would love to give Karun a go as a test driver,” Mallya admitted last week, “He is a year away from a race seat, and I need to see him consistently winning in GP2, not an odd race here and there. At the end of the day, I cannot be encouraging the team's performance, and then do something that might compromise the result.”
Chandhok picked up his second win in the F1 feeder series when he triumphed, ironically, in the sprint race at Hockenheim, but, despite showing flashes of speed in qualifying, was unable to win a feature race and had just two other podium appearances - third at both Monaco and Silverstone - to show for his efforts.
"Overall, it's been a positive season, and I am very pleased with the progress I have made this year, but I'm a bit frustrated that the second half of the season didn't deliver as much as it promised points-wise, and our terrible luck on Sundays, in the sprint races, really hurt my points total," he reflected.
"Winning my second GP2 race was a big highlight and, having been a regular frontrunner this year has put me in a good position in the queue of drivers trying to break into F1, but, since being firmly in the top five in Budapest, our luck changed and seven non-scores put me on the back foot. It's particularly frustrating since five of those non-scores were out of my control, but such is life. I learnt a lot this year and will carry that into next season."
Next season appears to hold more of the same for the personable Indian, who's performances at the wheel of the second iSport International entry earned him the 'best driving style' award at GP2's end of season gala. Whether he returns to Paul Jackson's operation for a second term remains to be seen, even though he appeared to gel well with the 2007 titlewinners.
"I'd like to thank everyone at iSport International - they are a great team of guys," Chandhok commented, "I'd also like to wish [team-mate] Bruno Senna the best of luck for the future. I really enjoyed working with him this year and I think we pushed each other hard.
"At the moment, it's a bit too early to have confirmation of my programme for 2009. This year there were very limited options in terms of race seats in F1, so it looks like the best option for me in 2009 would be to be a test driver in F1 and gain some experience in preparation for 2010.
"The test driving role these days is quite limited though, so I think it will be important to combine that with a season of GP2 to ensure that I am racing often at a highly competitive level. We are in discussion with F1 and GP2 teams in order to put this programme in place and I am optimistic that, by the end of November, I will have a clearer idea on things."