No room for sentimentality at Force India
New Delhi: Force India will give Indian Karun Chandhok a chance to prove he is good enough to drive in Formula One but will not hand him a race seat based on his nationality alone, team boss Vijay Mallya said.
The sport`s supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Wednesday the team should have chosen Chandhok to replace Giancarlo Fisichella when the Italian switched to Ferrari to help boost the build-up for India`s inaugural grand prix in 2011.
They instead named reserve driver Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi as a replacement for this week`s grand prix in Monza, stirring mixed reactions in India following media-fuelled expectations of having an Indian driving in a team bearing the country`s name.
"The entire issue has got too dramatised," Mallya told reporters.
"I have been discussing the issue with Karun Chandhok and have already agreed to put him in the driver simulator to see how he handles the F1 car.”
"At the end of the day, Karun must win some GP2 races and come out good in the F1 simulator in which I put him in. And if he is competitive in the simulator, I would be the first one to offer him a position in Force India."
Chandhok, who competes in the GP2 series, is widely seen as India`s next Formula One hope after interest in the sport zoomed upwards after Narain Karthikeyan became the first Indian F1 driver in 2005.
India does not have a driver in the series currently and Mallya defended the decision not to hand Chandhok a race seat just because he was Indian.
"It doesn`t happen anywhere. That is why Ferrari didn`t have an Italian race driver till Fisichella went. From last year and this year, they had Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) and Felipe Massa (Brazil)," said the liquor and aviation baron.
"We have a contract with Liuzzi which says that he is a reserve and test driver and, by definition, will get a race seat when it is free. So we just followed that."
Fisichella moved to Ferrari last week for the rest of the season as replacement for Italian Luca Badoer, the 38-year-old reserve who had struggled as a stand-in for injured Massa in the last two races.