London: Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan defended their achievements in Formula One after dismissive recent comments by Force India team owner Vijay Mallya.
"I think it`s a bit sad that in one breath the chairman of our Indian ASN (national sporting authority) is talking about how much he has done for Indian drivers and then in the next breath he is criticising India`s only two Formula One drivers," Chandhok told reporters.
"If you are going to criticise people, at least do it with some facts," he added. "Having never tested either Narain or myself in one of his cars, he doesn`t have the facts."
"I understand the need to find the next Indian star, and I use the word next not first, and the need to create more Indian F1 drivers.”
"But you are not going to find the next Indian star by running events in single-engined four-stroke rental karts on 400 metre tracks made out of concrete."
Mallya, a liquor and aviation billionaire who also sits on the governing FIA`s world motor sport council, has launched a `one in a billion` driver talent search at kart tracks across India aimed at discovering an Indian Lewis Hamilton.
He said at the weekend that Indians should get behind Force India rather than bemoan the lack of an Indian driver on the starting grid.
"As far as the existing Indian drivers in Formula One are concerned, I can only feel very sorry for them. They are getting drives by the teams who clearly can`t compete," he had said.
"If that`s what they want to do, drive a Formula One car for the sake of driving a Formula One car and winding up at the back, I can`t do anything about it."
Chandhok, whose father Vicky is president of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, said the JK Tyre Rotax challenge that he was involved in was a better bet for discovering real talent.
"The Rotax karts are the same as used elsewhere in the world, you send drivers to the world final and that`s where you are going to find the next generation of drivers," he said.
Karthikeyan, who was backed by Mallya in Formula Three, pointed to the example of Mexico to show how long India might have to wait for the next grand prix driver after them.
No Mexican has won in Formula One since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970 and rookie Sergio Perez is the country`s first driver in 30 years. Mexico also has far more of a motor racing tradition.
Karthikeyan started the season racing for Hispania (HRT), but he has been moved aside -- at least until the inaugural Indian GP in October -- for Red Bull-backed Australian debutant Daniel Ricciardo.
"Against all the odds, both of us have made it to Formula one," Karthikeyan told reporters.
"It doesn`t matter who I drive for in the Indian Grand Prix. It`s just a symbolic and historic moment and one that can show aspiring young drivers what they can do with hard work and effort.”
"The Tata Group is very supportive of what I do and that`s all that matters," he added.
Chandhok, who raced for HRT last year, is now the Team Lotus reserve. Neither team has scored a point but Team Lotus`s Malaysian principal Tony Fernandes is investing heavily and has secured some big backers to help lift the team up the grid.
"I am very happy to be in a team where the shareholders and the CEO are 100 percent supportive, in a team where I feel 100 percent wanted and I feel a long term potential to build a truly Asian team and I am very happy where I am," said Chandhok.