The third of today’s birthday boys is a great friend to RichardsF1.com, Karun Chandhok, who is turning 28 today!
With a family involvement in motorsport – his father Vicky is the leading figure in the motorsport authority in India – Karun was set on the path to F1 at an early age.
He achieved some success in the junior Asian series, before venturing to Europe to compete in the 2003 British F3 series. He performed solidly, especially given his unfamiliarity with the circuits and his relative inexperience.
He subsequently had some outings in the A1GP series and the Renault World Series championships, but with limited success.
He returned back to his home continent in 2006 and utterly dominated the Formula V6 Asia Championship, winning 7 of the 12 races that season.
With more confidence, he launched himself back into Europe and took a GP2 seat with Durango, then a midfield team in the competition. He was soon in the running for points, and the championship’s reverse grid rules allowed him to start from the front row on occasions at the Sunday races.
He looked set to take victory at Istanbul until he was punted out of contention by Kazuki Nakajima, but recovered with an outstanding victory at Spa.
He moved to the iSport squad the following year and teamed up with his current F1 team-mate Bruno Senna. Although he scored another win, he couldn’t consistently harness his speed into consistent results and was generally won over by his Brazilian team-mate. His final GP2 season was with the Ocean Racing outfit, but he only finished on the podium once.
The last of the drivers to be confirmed on the 2010 Formula 1 grid, the young Indian benefited from the upheaval at Hispania Racing to land himself a drive at the last minute, becoming the second driver from the subcontinent to make it into F1.
He endured an extremely difficult baptism at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, but has proved steady and consistent in the back-of-the-grid car, bringing the car to the chequered flag in the subsequent races.
Sponsorship issues saw him dropped – many felt, unfairly – from the team’s line-up in favour of Sakon Yamamoto, but he kept his resolve and picked up the role of reserve driver with Team Lotus after spending the rest of the year earning plaudits for his role as a guest commentator with BBC Radio 5 Live.
It was almost certainly this lack of track time that showed in his outings for Team Lotus, and it was an inauspicious beginning when he crashed on his out-lap. When he was given his chance to audition for a spot in the line-up for the Indian Grand Prix later in the year, his sole race outing at Germany was a disaster. While he was clearly disappointed that the team didn’t give him the race seat in his home race, it was not really a surprise.
With the 2012 grid becoming increasingly clogged with paying drivers, Chandhok sadly doesn’t the commercial backing of some of his contemporaries, and it would be a delightful surprise if he were to feature on the F1 grid again.
In 2012, Karun is set to dovetail drives in the new i1Super Series, and he’s also been signed to the World Endurance Championship.
READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH KARUN CHANDHOK – CLICK ON THE ABOVE THUMBNAIL!