Racing in Formula 1 remains Karun Chandhok’s aim but only if the Indian driver gets a worthwhile team to race with, according to his father and president of the motorsport’s governing body in India Vicky Chandhok.
The former HRT and Lotus (now Caterham) reserve driver currently forms the line-up for JRM Racing which is competing in the World Endurance Championship this season, registering strong results in the series including at the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But the promising performance doesn’t mean that that the 28-year-old has shut the door to Formula 1, difficult as it may be.
“Formula 1 is always a priority. Let's not take it away because Formula 1 is special,” Vicky Chandhok told F1Pulse.com in an exclusive chat. “It's a priority from the angle that it's always considered the pinnacle.
“That said, I would dare say that you will not find another Indian for many more years arriving on the international scene into Formula 1 after Narain (Karthikeyan) and Karun. The reason is all down to money.
“As a family and for his sponsors, Karun took the conscious decision and said 'I want to stop.' Because even pumping in money you may have got a seat with HRT or Marussia. Where is it getting you? You're still at the back of the grid,” reasoned Vicky Chandhok, who has played an instrumental role in the hosting of the Indian Grand Prix, the second edition of which will be hosted at the end of October.
Karun Chandhok was named as a reserve for Lotus last year, the team which has rebranded as Caterham this season, with his final Formula 1 race appearance logged at the 2011 German Grand Prix where he finished 20th.
He spent half a season racing for minnows HRT the previous season delivering enough to finish races, the most a driver could provide in a car which constantly had to keep out of the way of frontrunners.
“Karun's ambition was to be a driver in Formula 1. He's achieved it. Now the next ambition should be to better it,” Chandhok Sr pointed out. “From a back of the grid team you want to get into a better team. If that's not possible you might as well go and find something where you are going to competitively race against somebody.”
Having failed to secure a seat in F1 for 2011, Chandhok moved on to endurance racing partnering Peter Dumbreck and former Formula 1 driver David Brabham in an LMP1 car.
At the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, the team finished sixth and earlier this month, a fifth place at the 6 Hours of Fuji cemented the driver’s potential in a competitive environment.
“For him the LMP1 came like something that he is literally loving,” Chandhok continued. “He's enjoying it because he's actually racing. Now he's doing what he wants to do.
“What's the point of being a reserve or a test driver and do a Friday morning session? To achieve what?” he questioned.
“To achieve nothing.”
Vicky Chandhok, president of the Federation of Motor Sports Club of India (FMSCI), believed that the WEC’s prospects will expand fast, hopeful that his son too could benefit from its growth.
“It'll grow because it gives room for development. You've got hybrid cars, you've got diesels, people are working on hydrogen-powered cars. It's giving people a lot more room and a lot more flexibility to show what they can deliver,” he said.
“I honestly believe that it'll grow. I am not just saying that because Karun is there,” he clarified.
Former Toyota F1 driver and two-time Le Mans winner Allan McNish too was impressed with Chandhok’s grit.
“Karun is grabbed hold of sportscars very well,” McNish told F1Pulse.com. “The car is a fast car, HPD. It’s a fast car on certain types of circuits. But to be honest, it’s a struggle for them to compete against the factories because we are developing at a very fast rate and they are not in that position.
“You know he’s doing a very good job there, I have to say,” the Audi driver affirmed.