Hispania Racing driver Karun Chandhok is apparently setting his sights higher up the grid by gunning for a race seat at the Force India squad next season.
His argument for a drive as an Indian driver in an Indian-owned team makes plenty of sense, particularly with the Indian Grand Prix set to make its debut in Dehli’s outskirts.
However, Force India team boss Vijay Mallya, while admitting that securing the services of an Indian driver would make perfect sense, has previously discounted Chandhok’s chances and ability, claiming in an earlier interview that “there is not one Indian pilot who has the potential to battle the best on the track.”
In spite of earlier criticism, Chandhok remains upbeat that he can turn Dr Mallya’s opinion around, having already felt that his form relative to team-mate Bruno Senna has proved competitive to-date.
Speaking to the press at Montreal, Chandhok said: “I’d love to drive for Force India at some point in my career, whether it happens next year or not, because I think in some ways I’m an ambassador for the sport in our country.
“A lot of what happens to the sport in that part of the world depends on us a little bit, and I think if you have an Indian driver in an Indian car at the Indian grand prix, it’s a no-brainer in terms of ticket sales.
“I think this year [Mallya has] been quite surprised because I’ve been competitive against Bruno and I think generally I’ve done quite a good job.
“This is just what I hear from people around him; we haven’t really had a conversation about it yet,” he added.
So is this merely a pipedream?
Mindful not to discount the prospect of his current employers, HRT, Chandhok was equally quick to
backtrack admit that the future of the team looks positive, based on assurances from the team owners.
“If these guys carry out the plans which the [team owners] have talked to me about, they can be a very competitive team in the future.
“So far they seem happy with what I’m doing. Jose Ramon [Carabante, team owner of HRT] is very keen to try to do something for next year as well.”
Given Chandhok’s strong connections with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone – who would readily admit that the health of F1 in the burgeoning Indian market would very much hinge on the presence of a local driver on the grid – it would be wise to assume that Chandhok’s place in F1 is pretty safe…
[Original image via GP Update]