Success of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix will determine the future of motorsport in India, says the country's second Formula One driver Karun Chandhok of Team Lotus
India's second Formula One driver Karun Chandhok is a restless man these days. Even as his Team Lotus is yet to announce if the reserve driver will take to the wheel at the Indian GP, Chandhok is over the moon at the very thought of an F1 race set to take place in his own backyard. Excerpts from an interview.
You're still relatively new to F1. How's the overall experience been?
F1 is a complex business. Many aspects of the sport have been as I expected but just as many have been unexpected! Driving an F1 car is the most amazing sensation in the world but the work load outside the car with the engineers, marketing, media, sponsors, fans is way more than I imagined!
Is scoring points still some time away, or could it happen sooner?
Tony Fernandes (Team Principal) and Team Lotus have taken steady steps towards the midfield in just our second year in F1. A lot of very good teams are investing loads of money. Realistically, we're not going to score points this year. The target needs to be to have a car capable of doing well at qualifying at the start of next year. Then we stand a chance of some points.
It's not yet certain if you will be driving at the Indian GP, but what are your thoughts on both scenarios � if you do get to race and what will it be like if you don't?
I was very grateful to Tony and the team for giving me the opportunity to drive in at the German GP (where he replaced Jarno Trulli). The objective is never to be a permanent reserve driver, but to be back racing full time and not only at the Indian GP. For any driver, the most important and emotional race is their home GP and I'd love to be on the grid for it but it's up to the team management.
Since you have been to the Buddh Circuit a few times, could you decipher the track for us?
I've been visiting the site ever since it was an empty piece of land and also as recently as last week. The Jaypee Group have done a fantastic job. I'm sure the drivers will love the track, which has a good mix of fast
and slow corners, long straights with overtaking opportunities and also some high-speed direction changes. Turn 4 will be one of the best places to overtake. The extra track width at Turns 3, 4 & 16, will see cars going in wide on the opening laps. The long straight from turns 3 to 4 emphasises straight line speed but then from Turn 4 till the end of the lap, you barely have the steering wheel straight and that will need a lot of downforce apart from putting a strain on the tyres.
What are you expecting from the Indian GP?
The F1 race coming home is a huge moment. There has been talk about India hosting a race for more than a decade btu to actually see it becoming a reality is unbelievable. The sport is an international spectacle like no other and it will be great for all fans to see it first hand in India. The sport in India is growing and becoming more structured but a lot depends on the success of the Indian GP. If we can get people in the Grandstand and the country excited about F1, it will make a big difference. Everything in motorsport stems from F1. If we can make the GP a success, we can build lower races on it.
Have some of the foreign drivers approached you seeking information about India, its people, etc?
I've had some hilarious chats with people in the F1 paddock and all of them are keen to come try authentic Indian food or 'curries' as call it. Noida's not far from the Taj Mahal as well and many will use the opportunity to visit one of the Wonders of the World.