Karun Chandhok - who stands on the edges of Formula 1 following his maiden test outing for Red Bull Racing at Barcelona last month - has moved to pour cold water on press rumours of a feud between himself and Narain Karthikeyan, the only other Indian driver ever to pilot an F1 car.

Chandhok - who will compete for reigning championship-winning squad iSport International in GP2 in 2008 after finishing 15th in his debut season in the category with Durango, including taking an impressive and popular victory at Spa-Francorchamps along the way - is bidding to follow in Karthikeyan's wheeltracks and make it all the way onto the grand prix grid, following his compatriot's year spent racing with Jordan Grand Prix back in 2005. He was swift to refute suggestions, however, that there was any friction caused by two drivers from a country with no previous F1 heritage both battling to make their names in the uppermost echelon.

"I think in India people look at it as competition because we are the two prime candidates [for an F1 drive]," Chandhok told Indiatimes Racing, "but at the end of the day, he's had a seven-year head-start and I think I've done well to get to where I am today.

"We've both matured and understand that this is the way things are. We respect each other's ability, and that helps to make sure that even though certain sections like to hype up a 'feud' between us, we manage to diffuse that."

The 23-year-old acknowledged the fact opposition for an F1 future would come from far and wide, but he has received the endorsement from no less a figure than the sport's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, who has tipped him to make the breakthrough - possibly with Vijay Mallya's Force India outfit - in 2009.

In the meantime, though, the man from Chennai has his sights set firmly on the GP2 Asia Series, as a warm-up ahead of his main focus - the 2008 GP2 campaign. A title tilt, and some more F1 testing with Red Bull as the season progresses, he admits, would be just the ticket.

"The Asia Series is about getting prepared for the main European series," Chandhok underlined, "but having said that, I'm a racing driver and of course I would love to be running in the top six which is my aim.

"The new [Red Bull] car isn't actually complete yet, but the ideas behind it are very promising and, with a stable engine partner and a second year with the same tyre manufacturer, there should be good progress.

"[Technical director] Geoff Willis and [chief technical officer) Adrian Newey will have a good influence over the new car, although it's very important to improve the reliability which was a weak point this year."

As to his countryman's immediate future, as Karthikeyan plies his trade in A1GP having severed his F1 test-driving ties with Williams, Chandhok was equally optimistic, particularly given the 30-year-old's recent triumph - India's first in the nation vs nation championship - in Zhuhai earlier this month.

"He is a very talented driver with loads of experience," the inaugural Formula Asia V6 by Renault Champion asserted. "A few months ago I had said he would be one of the favourites in A1GP.

"I certainly expected him to win races and so it wasn't a surprise for me when he won in China. The reality is that he is a good driver with a good team around him, so why shouldn't he win?"

 

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