Drivers keen to make mark in maiden Indian GP



Drivers keen to make mark in maiden Indian GPNew Delhi: Come Sunday and India will host its maiden Formula One race and the country`s drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok said they would leave no stone unturned to leave a mark when the Indian Grand Prix flags off at the spanking Buddh International Circuit.

Karthikeyan wants to live his dream of racing at his home soil in the F1 circuit and the 34-year-old Hispania driver said he will make that extra push to finish as high as possible on Sunday.

Chandhok too just can`t wait to get behind the wheels and though uncertainty still surrounds his dream of driving in India, he is determined to give his heart out in front of his countrymen on Friday`s practice session for Team Lotus.

However, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said even a fortnight ago he was not sure if the organisers can pull off the inaugural race properly.

But Formula One`s commercial rights holder is now assured that the first Formula One race to be held on the subcontinent will be a success.

"I was pessimistic a fortnight ago. I was sent pictures of the track and I thought: `Christ, we`re not going to get it finished in time,`" he was quoted as saying in a leading daily.

"But what they have done in the meantime and I`ve been sent more recent pictures is incredible. The people there are very anxious to be sure they`re doing a good job and they are very passionate about their sport," he added.

The sordid tales of corruption and under preparedness that preceded India`s hosting of the Commonwealth Games last year also created doubts in the mind.

However, Ecclestone said he is now looking forward for the India Grand Prix and the other two season-ending races.

"I`m really looking forward to (next) Sunday`s race. And I think here, and in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, the racing will be even keener than it has been this season," he said.

"The drivers have been concerned about finishing second or third or fourth, because of the state of the championship. They have been anxious not to fall off the road. But now they don`t care. Now these guys will be racing to win."

Shrugging off all doubts, drivers all across the world, including Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are gung ho about racing at the new Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida.

Karthikeyan, who became the first Indian F1 driver with Jordan in 2005, said his decision to switch back to F1 was influenced by the Indian Grand Prix.

"F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and it is definitely worth the sacrifices that I`ve made. The fact that Indian GP was on the calendar did play a part in my decision to return to F1 despite my comfortable position in NASCAR last year. But no regrets, I didn`t want to think `what if?`," he said.

"I was assured that I`d be driving the Indian GP which was certainly encouraging. Being out of a full-time race seat is always a hard decision.”

"Competing in my country will be an extremely proud moment for me. Being one of the new teams, it is difficult for us to fight up the grid but I will push that extra bit knowing that I have the home support and finish the race as high up as possible," he said.

His countrymate Karun, a reserve driver for Team Lotus who competed in Germany this year in place of Italian Jarno Trulli, is also hopeful the Malaysian F1 outfit will give him the nod to drive at the Buddh International Circuit.

"You will definitely see me in Friday`s practice session and there I will definitely give my best. But for the rest of the two days (qualifying and main race), we will have to wait and see," the Chennai-based driver said.

"It`s a complicated thing because there are contractual complexities as the team has to honour the two contracted race drivers. But from my side I would love to race (in Indian GP)," Karun said.

PTI