Three races into the season and the public perception towards Hispania is gradually turning with the paddock treating the rookie outfit with a little more respect, feels Karun Chandhok.
With the Murcia-based Spanish outfit racing against time and grappling with a finance crunch, not many expected Hispania would eventually be able to field two cars before the season opener in Bahrain.
It required a series of lucky coincidents as Hispania, bailed out of the financial morass by Spanish magnate Jose Ramon Carabante, did manage just that even though it meant going straightaway into the 2010 Championship without any pre-season testing.
Karun said the same paddock which used to look at the rookie outfit with incredulity has finally started taking him and his team seriously.
"Things have changed a bit and the paddock has started treating us with little more respect," Karun said.
"The team got its first double finish in Sepang and I was able to finish ahead of (teammate) Bruno (Senna), which was great. Bruno is very highly rated and to beat him was good for me as well. So people have started taking us more seriously," elaborated the Chennai driver.
High on morale after his back-to-back finishes in Melbourne and Sepang, Karun said he would put his best foot forward in Shanghai which hosts the Chinese Grand Prix on April 28.
"I have not driven in Shanghai, Bruno has. But I think I'm not too bad mastering courses. I had not driven in Albert Park (in Melbourne) either but it took me five laps to get a hang," he said, confidence personified.
Karun insisted Hispania's battle was to emerge as the best rookie team and the onus was now on the engineers to roll out a car that can compete with Lotus and Virgin.
"I think the factory guys now have their task cut out. (Team principal) Colin (Tolles) has some ideas and he is working with the technical teams. We need to develop a car which can compete with the two other new teams," he said.
Karun had a surprise guest at Sepang in Shah Rukh Khan and the driver said the actor has promised to attend a few more races this year.
"Shah Rukh is such a nice person. I knew him since we worked together as brand ambassadors of a watch brand. He showed genuine interest in the race.
"He is a humble person and I would say his off-screen personality is more appealing than his on-screen presence. He has promised to attend some other races this year," Kaurn said.