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‘My dream’s come true’

India’s second formula one driver, Karun Chandhok, speaks on competing with Force India, speeding tickets and driving on Indian roads.

entertainment Updated: Mar 25, 2010 14:48 IST
Nikhil Taneja
Nikhil Taneja
Hindustan Times

India’s second formula one driver, Karun Chandhok, speaks on competing with Force India, speeding tickets and driving on Indian roads.

So, how many interviews have you given in the last couple of weeks that you’ve been in India?
(Laughs) I’ve crossed 50. It’s been a biggie, but this is what I dreamt of — of being an Indian in a formula one car, and it’s unbelievably come true. Though honestly, I didn’t expect so many pictures and so much media attention! In the past three days, I must have done a dozen photo shoots. (Laughs again) I think I’m a pro now.

What question have you been asked most?
(Chuckles) They’ve all asked me what it’s like to be a formula one driver, after all these years. But it’s okay. Since there are only two people in the country, towards whom this question can be directed. In fact, even the international media asks me this since they find it pretty unique to see a driver from India.

Have you been mobbed yet?
(Laughs) No, that’s reserved only for the cricketers, I guess. Poor Sachin! But people have been very warm and welcoming. I was in Delhi recently and everyone from Kapil Dev to Rajiv Shukla to the Singhania family, and of course, people from the racing fraternity and my friends, came to wish me luck.

You’ve been quite active on Twitter too. Has your fan base grown since you officially got a formula one seat?
Yeah, in the last 10 days, I’ve got 5,000 new followers! It’s pretty cool interacting with them, even though they are surprised when I post images of myself cooking or doing laundry. They ask me, ‘Why do you need to do that?’ (Laughs) They find it hard to believe that an F1 driver can also be a
regular guy.

Okay, tell us, what is the coolest thing about being a racecar driver?
Just driving that car! There’s literally nothing like it on the planet! You don’t need to go to nightclubs, parties, or do something crazy to get a buzz. The biggest high is when you are in a formula one car on a circuit, driving at full speed.

You started participating in races when you were nine. But you became old enough to drive on the roads after nine more years.(Laughs) Yeah, it was a bit weird that I’d be driving at speeds of 150 kilometers per hour in the circuit, and would then need to be driven back home by my father! I won the Formula Asia Championship when I was 16, but didn’t have a driving license until two years later.

Did girls throw themselves at you at the age? You were driving a racecar while still in school. (Laughs) No, it was not as dramatic as that. I’ve had quite a normal life off the circuit. Because the fact is, even though I love it, it’s also my job. So I don’t like to talk too much about it. Of course, I did feel tremendously lucky to be the only one at that age to have fulfilled my childhood dream.

How frustrating is it to drive on Indian roads?
Oh, it’s pretty annoying, I can tell you that. Luckily, the traffic jams at Chennai are not as bad as the ones in Bangalore, Mumbai or Delhi, but they still get irritating at times. Usually, I ask my brother to drive on Indian roads!

Is it difficult to stop yourself from pressing the accelerator on normal roads? Have you ever got a speeding ticket?
(Chuckles) Yeah, I’ve got three tofour speeding tickets actually. A couple of times the policemen recognised me, but still gave me a ticket. (Laughs) How do you go about explaining to someone that you race for a living?

But usually, when I’m driving on the road, I’ve switched off from the race mode. I don’t care how fast I go, as long as I get from point A to point B, avoiding the traffic.

What’s your dream car?
Ahh, I’d like to buy an Aston Martin, but I’ve always been so busy that I’ve never been able to indulge myself. At the moment, I have a Maruti Suzuki SX 4. It’s nothing exciting, but it gets me from one point to another, so that keeps me happy.

World Billiards Champion, Pankaj Advani, has reportedly signed on a movie about his life. Would you ever be interested in something similar?
(Laughs) Even if I do it, it would be a commercial disaster. My life has not been dramatic at all!