Chandhok sets sights on F1 reserve role
London: India’s Karun Chandhok has set his sights on a test driver role, with Team Lotus the main target, to keep his Formula One hopes alive after failing to secure a race seat for 2011.
“There’s no real race seat that we are chasing,” the 26-year-old told reporters from India on Friday after his former HRT team announced that compatriot Narain Karthikeyan would be driving for them this season.
“We were not chasing the HRT seat at all,” said Chandhok, who started 10 of the 19 races for the Spanish-owned team in 2010 before being replaced.
HRT team principal Colin Kolles told reporters separately that no offer had been made to Chandhok for 2011. “He was left out of the car because he did not fulfil his contractual obligations,” he added of last year’s situation.
Chandhok said he was looking to return to the starting grid next year.
“I’ve been speaking to a variety of people but at the moment I am quite focused on getting something done for the medium to long term,” he said.
“If a third driver role leads to something better for 2012, then that’s what I’d like to see.”
Team Lotus, formerly Lotus Racing, were the best of the three newcomers last season and are hoping to make a big step up in 2011.
Principal Tony Fernandes, whose Malaysian-based Air Asia budget airline has routes to India, has spoken highly of Chandhok in the past and has also talked of his desire to create an Asian team.
The team has no test and reserve driver at present after parting company with Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy and said last month that they planned to use drivers from their new GP2 junior team when required.
Their current Formula One race drivers are Italian Jarno Trulli, who will be 37 this year, and Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen.
The reserve driver position has often served as a stepping stone to a full race drive with Britain’s Paul di Resta widely expected to graduate to the starting grid with Force India this season after regular Friday practice appearances in 2010.
The season starts in Bahrain on March 13.