Chandhok to test with Team Lotus
London: Karun Chandhok will test for Team Lotus in Spain next week as a potential reserve for the Formula One outfit, principal Tony Fernandes told reporters on Sunday.
Chandhok has been looking for a new role in Formula One after starting 10 races with struggling newcomers HRT (Hispania) last year.
He attended last week`s first pre-season test in Valencia as a guest of Team Lotus and Fernandes said he would now have some time in the car.
"We would like him to be reserve driver but we`ve got to see whether it all works out, that`s the plan," Fernandes said in a telephone conversation from Malaysia.
"He is going to get a couple of slots in the testing now in Jerez and Barcelona," added the AirAsia airline boss. "And then we`ll decide after that."
"(Technical head) Mike (Gascoyne) and (team CEO) Riad (Asmat) and everyone else feel he`s the right guy to add value to the team."
Fernandes, whose team are locked in a legal dispute with Renault sponsors Group Lotus over the use of the brand in Formula One, was speaking after being appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by Britain`s Queen Elizabeth.
Chandhok told Reuters last month that he was interested in the third driver role as a stepping stone to his full return to the starting grid in 2012.
Team Lotus were the best of the three new teams last year and, now with Renault engines and a far more aggressively-designed car, are hoping for a step up this season.
"We are very, very happy (with the car)," Fernandes said.
"The car looks great, wind tunnel (data) looks great but until it`s on the track you don`t know. The response I got back from (drivers) Heikki (Kovalainen) and Jarno (Trulli) was fantastic."
"The car wasn`t set up properly on the last day, we were just doing lots of tests...and the times were fantastic. We`ve made that big step forward. In comparison to other teams, we`re not that far behind."
"It shows what can be done if you have the right spirit and the right people."
Speaking before news broke of Robert Kubica`s rally crash in Italy, an accident that cast doubt on the Pole starting the season for Renault, Fernandes said Team Lotus would love to take the fight to their Lotus-backed rivals on the track but had to be realistic.
Renault have already won a lot of attention for their innovative forward-facing exhausts that exit through the sidepods and Fernandes also complimented them on that.
"We were never going to challenge them," he said. "It looks very clever and we will have to wait and see."
"But hats off to them for coming up with that."
"Of course we would love to beat them but we would love to beat everyone. One has to be realistic and I am the most real man around."
"You can`t build a challenger to someone like Renault, who have been Benetton and Toleman, in one year. It`s not feasible. My focus is to keep on doing what we are doing and make those leaps forward."
"It isn`t about this year, it`s about building a team that will be there in 10 years time as well."