Chandhok targets 2011 drive
Karun Chandhok is confident that he will be back on the Formula One grid next season despite having raced for only half the season in the slowest car on the track.
Chandhok thought he had got his big break when he landed a place as Bruno Senna's teammate in the Hispania Racing Team-Cosworth (HRT) team at the start of the season to become only the second Indian to race in the top echelon of motorsport, the first being Narain Karthikeyan, who drove for Jordan in 2005.
However, HRT, who were one of the three new teams to enter the sport this season, have struggled for pace and have usually been five to six seconds a lap slower than the cars at the front.
The 26-year-old competed in the first 10 races before being replaced due to financial problems and replaced by Sakon Yamamoto, a Japanese driver who could bring more sponsorship and funding to the team.
But despite being sidelined since the British Grand Prix in July the Indian, who graduated to F1 after racing in GP2, is positive about his chances of having a drive for the 2011 season.
"The perception in the paddock for me generally has been pretty good," he said.
"I'm sitting here today with a lot more credibility than I did a year ago and a lot of that, I think, comes from the fact I feel I did a good job when I had the opportunity.
"There is a lot to discuss for next year with the HRT team, but also with other teams to see what other options are available for me, but I do feel good about my prospects."
A major motivation for him finding a race seat will be the first staging of the Indian Grand Prix, which will be held in Delhi on October 30 next year.
He may not have been able to show what he can do on the track as his car suffered from poor reliability and a lack of speed, with 14th place in the Australian Grand Prix, some five laps behind race winner Jenson Button, being his best finish to date, but Chandhok is content with how he did in his debut year.
"It is good in F1 that you have two cars in the team so you have the comparison," he said.
"Bruno is a very highly-rated driver and people often forget the fact he was within 10 days of being in [Rubens] Barrichello's seat at Brawn last year. He is very highly rated and I have been very competitive against him this year and I feel I used the opportunities I had this season well."
Despite only having the pace to compete with the other new teams, Lotus-Cosworth and Virgin-Cosworth, Chandhok feels he gave a good account of himself when he had the chance.
"Whenever we had the opportunity, like in Monaco, to fight with Virgin and Lotus we did. I was running best of the new teams until Jarno [Trulli, the Lotus driver] crashed on top of me and put us out," he said.
"In Canada I beat the Virgins on pure pace and strategy and managing the tyres and in Valencia I beat Timo [Glock , the Virgin driver] by using strategy.
"I feel I used the opportunities I had quite well. All I could do this year was establish myself as a creditable and respectable F1 driver for 2011 and beyond. When you are with a new team that is all that you can do."
He may not have been on the track for HRT in the last four months, but the 2000 Indian National Racing champion has kept himself involved with the team in the meantime.
"I still go to most of the races, I didn't go to Japan, but I've been to every other race," he said.
"I'm still part of the team and sit in on all the meetings and contribute where I can because I have done more racing miles than anyone else in the car so I can help with set-up."
Chandhok is backing the Red Bull-Renaults to shine in Sunday's Korean Grand Prix after being the first man to drive a lap of the new track in Yeongam in a F1 car.He drove a 2009 specification Red Bull around the 5.5km circuit last month as part of an exhibitions for fans in South Korea, and he liked what he experienced of the newest addition to the F1 calendar.
"It is quite a mixed bag, but it is a nice layout and has a bit of everything," he said.
Chandhok believes it is a circuit of two halves, the first favouring those quick in straight-line speed, the latter half being better for a car with good aerodynamic grip.
"The first sector is long straights and hairpins essentially which, you could argue, would favour McLaren, Ferrari and Renault, whose F-duct was working well at Spa," he said.
"And when we come from Turn Four onwards it is Red Bull-Renault territory back to the line. It is literally one corner after another and will suit the Red Bulls."
Published: October 22, 2010 04:00 AM