A join interview on the official Formula 1 website with Force India boss Vijay Mallya and Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that neither man considers HRT driver Karun Chandhok a top-shelf Formula 1 driver.

Despite this, the pair admitted that the presence of an Indian driver on the grid was of crucial importance to the future of Formula 1 in a burgeoning market such as the subcontinent.

Chandhok was touted by sections of the Indian press as a potential candidate for a drive with Force India, however Mallya baulked at the idea, and opted to run the line-up of Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi, with Paul di Resta as the test and reserve driver.

Asked if it were his desire to field an Indian driver in his Indian-owned team, Mallya was emphatically positive: "It is very important. I would love it. I’m not a fool and can see the enormous publicity potential which would come from it.

"The downside at the moment is that there is not one Indian pilot who has the potential to battle the best on the track,” he added.

Chandhok visited India this week to view the construction site for the Indian Grand Prix at Dehli, set to make its F1 debut in 2011. Strongly supported by Ecclestone, the F1 supremo is no fool in realising the untapped market that India offers in the Formula 1 scheme of things.

Despite Ecclestone’s support and friendship with Chandhok – indeed, he was crucial in enabling the Chennai-born 26-year-old to secure a seat with the back-of-the-grid HRT team – he also indicated that an Indian F1 driver is not yet ready of truly be on the F1 pace.

He added that a struggling Indian driver representing the Force India team would be “extremely negative” for the marque.

“[If this happened] Vijay would have achieved the exact opposite of what he wanted to. To choose an Indian driver who just runs after all the others is no use to anybody. It would be counterproductive,” he added.

One can’t imagine that the Indian F1 fans or media will be too enamoured with these comments.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.