Karun Chandhok to get Team Lotus chance and Tony Fernandes awarded CBE

Popular Indian Formula One driver Karun Chandhok will get his chance to stake a claim to be Team Lotus' reserve driver for 2011.

Despite encouraging performances early last season with 2010 strugglers HRT, Chandhok was unceremoniously dumped as the new boys looked for more money to boost their flagging campaign.

Although the 27-year-old is still without a drive for the new season, steady speculation over the winter linked Chandhok with a back-up drive at Hingham-based Team Lotus – flames fuelled by his appearance in Team Lotus clothing as their 'guest' at last week's opening pre-season test in Valencia.

Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne said: 'Karun came as the team's guest to take a look at us at work, and for us to take a closer look at him. We'll see how that develops but nothing is confirmed yet.'

Team principal Tony Fernandes added: 'We would like him to be reserve driver but we've got to see whether it all works out, that's the plan.

'He is going to get a couple of slots in the testing now in Jerez and Barcelona, and then we'll decide after that.'

Team Lotus already plan to give their two drivers at GP2 outfit Team Air Asia – Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia – some track time during this season's Formula One free practice sessions, regardless of whether they sign official back-up to Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli.

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F1's pre-season testing recommences with a four day test in Jerez from Thursday.

Fernandes had one big reason to smile at the weekend, after it was confirmed he will be awarded the CBE for services to promote commercial and educational links between the United Kingdom and Malaysia.

'I'm grateful to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the honour,' said Fernandes, who also founded Air Asia and has built a reputation for being an impressive businessman.

'It is a recognition of the hard work, determination and effort on the part of all my partners, colleagues and staff in AirAsia, Tune Group and Team Lotus.

'We have a terrific bunch of talented people working with us to make things happen in whatever venture we undertake. This is as much their award as it is mine.'

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