Key F1 figures have come out in support of currently-sidelined HRT driver Karun Chandhok, who has remained out of the cockpit since the British Grand Prix mid-year.
The 26-year-old was replaced by the better-funded Sakon Yamamoto in a surprise move that the team is still yet to adequately explain, and it is widely believed that he will remain sidelined in deference to Yamamoto until season’s end.
Crucial to Chandhok’s future is that one of his principal sponsors is Jaypee Sports, the very organisation overseeing Formula 1 make its debut on Indian soil at the New Dehli-based circuit currently under construction. The absence of an Indian-born driver from the grid will not prove the drawcard that event organisers had hoped, and key figures are working hard to ensure Karun remains on the grid in 2011.
Speaking with the Times of India, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone – known to have close personal ties with Chandhok – has backed the Chennai-born driver to return to the F1 grid in 2011 in a “better car”.
Describing the economically-emerging Indian nation as “the most important and powerful players in the world of business, culture and sport”, the F1 boss added: “Having an Indian team [Force India] is obviously a big help. An Indian driver will be an even better deal. I definitely want to see Karun in a better car next year.”
Since his being cast aside, Chandhok has toured the Grand Prix circus covering the races for radio, and his last outing behind the wheel was in a demonstration run for Red Bull at the partially-completed Korean Grand Prix circuit.
“He served his apprenticeship in a car that he could do nothing about,” Ecclestone continued. “He really needs to be in a team where he can show his potential because I think he can be very, very good if he gets the right car.”
Another source of support for Chandhok was none other than 2008 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton.
On a PR visit to India last week, the McLaren driver was asked his opinion on Chandhok.
“Karun is a very good driver,” Hamilton said. “He understands the nuances of the sport very well and if he is able to get a better car, he would be able to make a big difference.”
For our thoughts on Karun’s absence from the 2010 grid, click here to view our vodcast.
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]