Young drivers in India may not be just dreaming about Formula One this year, they could be up to some fast action too.
The F-1 season opens in Bahrain on Friday with the practice sessions and this time many of the youngsters could be taking serious mental notes, observing racing lines closely and watching how the big boys handle the corners.
With Karun Chandhok now on motor sport's most glamorous stage and with an Indian Grand Prix on the cards in New Delhi next year, one wouldn't be surprised if young racing stars begin to believe that they could be in F-1 sooner than they had imagined. The arrival of new teams is another factor that has given youngsters fresh hopes.
“I know an F-1 drive is just around the corner since I'm in Formula One's feeder series,” said Formula Two star Armaan Ebrahim on Wednesday.
Feet on the ground
For a few years now, Armaan has been spoken about as a potential F-1 star and the 20-year-old is aware that he is very close to his dream now. But he chose to keep his feet firmly on the ground saying, “but right now, I'm preparing well for F-2.”
The world body FIA, concerned that the cost of grooming young drivers for F-1 was so high that it put off many talented young drivers, revived the F-2 Championship last year with a very affordable package and with a level-playing field.
And with Spaniard Andy Soucek, last year's F-2 champion, being picked as the Virgin F-1 team's official reserve driver, F-2's value went up this season.
But it is a fact that the GP2 Series, which is very expensive and where teams with big budgets enjoy a huge advantage, is the strongest feeder series for F-1. Almost half the drivers in this season's F-1 grid are GP2 graduates.
However, Armaan, who will be racing in the nine-round F-2 Series — which begins on April 16 in Silverstone — for the second successive year, has not decided on his plans for next year since the budget for GP2 could be four or five times more than the current F-2 budget.
“It all depends on how well I do this year,” he said. The Chennai-based star is excited about the Williams JPH1B, this year's F-2 car, and the four new rounds.
“It is more aerodynamic, has more power and is faster,” said Armaan, who brought home seven points last year, improving with each round. A sixth place in two races at Brno in the Czech Republic, after racing past more than 15 cars, was the high point of his 2009 F-2 season.
“I hope to get consistent and make it to the front on a regular basis this year,” said the youngster.
As he drives around, he will be keenly following the F-1 races. “With Schumacher back, Alonso in a Ferrari and Hamilton in a stronger McLaren, this season is going to be very tight,” said Armaan. “I can't say who will win and I won't be cheering anyone but this is going to be a very interesting year.”
What about Force India and Karun?
“Definitely, Force India will be a regular point-scoring team. They did very well last year and there will be gradual improvement this year.
“Karun will have to get used to the car …it will take some time because there was no testing but by mid-season, once he settles down, he will be getting the points.”