The final piece of F1 2010’s driver jigsaw has finally slotted in to place, with HRT F1 (the team formerly known as Campos Meta) confirming the identity of Bruno Senna’s new teammate. Ladies and gentlemen, may we present to you Mr. Karun Chandhok. Not yet heard of him? Well then why not read on…
Chandhok will be the second Indian to race in F1, following Narian Karthikeyan’s unspectacular year at Jordan in 2005. Karun is 26 years-old, hails from the city of Chennai and claims to have had 1558 contacts on his phone at the the last count. So now you know the important stuff…
For the past three years he’s raced F1 feeder series GP2, making Chandhok the fitth GP2 graduate to enter F1 this season. In 2007 he took an impressive win in Belgium for the Durango team, before joining reigning champions iSport for 2008. Paired with Bruno Senna- who he’ll partner at HRT- he had a quiet year, taking a win in Germany but ultimately finishing well behind the Brazilian in 10th position. 2009 brought a switch to the Ocean team where endured a difficult season, taking just one podium on his way to 18th in the championship.
Bernie Ecclestone has long championed Chandhok, suggesting Force India should find a space for their countryman in one of their cars. It’s not happened, primarily because Chandhok’s never shone in GP2 and better drivers have been available. Vijay Mallya isn’t a billionaire because he gives people from the same neck of the woods as him a leg-up.
His place at HRT is largely due to his financial clout and Bernie’s wish to boost F1’s profile in India. He’s got a healthy amount of sponsorship, which will help keep HRT afloat, and with Mr. Ecclestone on his side his case was helped significantly. Chandhok’s father, Vicky, is a high-ranking official in Indian motorsport, and is known to be a friend of Bernie’s.
HRT team principal Colin Kolles hinted at the significance of Chandhok’s nationality today, saying “India is a great country. It will be great for the sport to have an Indian driver on the grid for the first Indian Grand Prix”. India is hoping to host its first F1 race next year, something Karun wil no doubt be hoping to still be around for.
It’s going to be a baptism of fire for the young Indian, with HRT having missed all of pre-season testing and only securing their future last week. His new team boss Colin Kolles is know as something of a hard taskmaster, and with Senna having comprehensively beaten him in their time as GP2 teammates he knows he wont have an easy time competing with the Brazilian. But Chandhok’s shown flashes of real pace in the past, and it should be remembered that a certain Kamui Kobayashi failed to set GP2 alight before he exploded on to the F1 scene last year.
So, welcome to F1, Karun, and good luck. You’ll be needing it.
HRT F1 are set to unveil their new car today, so check out Badger for pictures of the Spanish team’s new racer in the coming hours.