Force India will give Karun Chandhok an opportunity to prove his F1 mettle but team owner Vijay Mallya is bemused by the romanticism that the Chennai driver deserves a seat in the outfit just because he is an Indian.
“The entire issue has got too dramatised. 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,” Mallya said.
“At the end of the day, Karun must win some GP 2 races and come out good in 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,” Mallya said.
After Giancarlo Fisichella joined Ferrari, Force India promoted reserve Italian driver Vitantonio Liuzzi to the race seat, a decision that drew criticism from some quarters with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone saying that the team should have roped in Karun to give motorsports a boost in the country.
Mallya didn’t find fault with Ecclestone but pointed out Force India had a contract with Liuzzi, which made the Italian the obvious occupant of the vacant race seat.
“Bernie obviously recognises vast potentials in India and that an Indian driver in F1 will probably, I say probably, make the sport more popular in our country. So one cannot find fault with his comment or desire.
“But Bernie is not meant to know the finer details of Force India’s contractual obligations. It’s not expected that anybody who is not involved with the team to know all the intricate details of our contract.
“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,” Mallya explained.
The liquor baron made it clear that Formula One has no place for any such romanticism that nationality alone would guarantee a driver his race seat.
“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).
“Take the case of French team Renault. They had Fernando Alonso (Spain) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (Germany) before Romain Grosjean came. There is no rule that you have to have a driver of particular nationality,” he said.
Mallya said he too would love to see an Indian driver in F1 and was keeping an eye on the upcoming drivers.
“We have started with evaluating Karun in F1 simulator and there are other youngsters coming up as well, like Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim,” he said.
Mallya also laughed off suggestions that Force India’s makeshift motor-home in the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa was an indication of its financial woes.
“This is ridiculous. The distance between Spa and Monza is about 1600 kms and we have back-to-back races. For your information, my motor-home weighs 40 tonne and takes three days to dismantle it and another three days to erect it.
“That’s why we sent our original motor-home to Monza and used a temporary one in Spa,” he said.