Karun Chandhok misses out on full Team Lotus drive in India
Team Lotus driver Karun Chandhok will sit out on the inaugural India Grand Prix this weekend. There had been hints for several weeks the Indian reserve racer at Hingham would be given the chance of a full Formula One round on home soil – a move that would have made both financial and sentimental sense.
However, despite such a move being intimated by team principal Tony Fernandes it was confirmed on Tuesday Chandhok will only race in Friday's first free practice session at the new Buddh International Circuit outside New Delhi, before handing the reins over to Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli.
'I'm obviously disappointed that I won't be on the grid for the first Indian Grand Prix,' said Chandhok. 'Everyone knows the most important and emotional race for any driver is their home race, and particularly so in my case.
'I've been involved with the project since the track was an empty piece of land. There's such a buzz in India at the moment – I've done 28 interviews in the last two days.
'I'm sure it's been a tough call for Tony to make and on some level I think he's feeling some pain about it, as we have always had a good personal relationship.
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'I joined this team mainly because of him and his faith in me while looking at the long term. I continue to hope that this long term plan bears fruit and I hope that one day I get to race for him again.'
Speaking to Autosport, Chandhok added: 'The team has opted to go for experience at this time but I will go to the paddock in Delhi with my head held high because I feel I did everything possible in and out of the car, especially over the last three months, to show Tony that I can be in F1 in the longer term.'
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The Norfolk marque is desperate to secure 10th position in this season's constructors' championship and the last remaining slice of Formula One's income pie that comes with it – as Team Lotus achieved in their debut campaign last year.
In the end that contest with Virgin and HRT ruled Chandhok out of a race on Sunday, having been given his chance of a full weekend in Germany earlier this season.
'From the team perspective the key goal for us this weekend is to maintain the performance levels we saw in the last two races and while I am sure there will be fans in India who want to see Karun race for us on Sunday, we had to make the best decision for the future of the team,' said Fernandes.
'While all the emotional reasons for him driving were right, we were conscious the limited running he has had this season has not given him the best preparation for this race.
'It is absolutely vital we secure 10th to give us the platform to keep growing and…it was considered too much pressure to put on Karun to drive in his first home race, deal with all the attention he would have had and be able to perform at the same level as either of our regular race drivers over the whole weekend.
'For that reason we had to take the pragmatic decision to put our faith in the experience and pace we have in Jarno and Heikki, and are confident they will continue to perform at the level they have over the last two years with us.
'While this is obviously not the decision Karun wanted us to take he understands that we have to take the long-term view and do so in the best interests of the team.
'He also understands that his relationship with our team is not about just one race, it is about growing together and while this is an historic event, there will be many opportunities to race in India in the future, and he is in the best possible place with us to take advantage of those chances in seasons to come.'