KOCHI: It's been one hectic week of flying for India's new Formula One driver Karun Chandhok.
Apart from the frequent flights, life has virtually been an endless whirl of meetings, interviews and answering messages for the 26-year-old the last 24 hours. “Life is a bit of a rollercoaster now…I'll be taking my seventh flight in eight days when I fly to London tonight,” Karun told The Hindu from Spain on Friday afternoon, a day after he was launched as Spanish side Hispania Racing Team's new F-1 driver.
“It was a bit surreal at first but now, today, it's slowly starting to sink in. To fully appreciate the feeling, I have to be in Bahrain for the opener,” said the 26-year-old. “It's nice to have an F-1 car with my name on it, that's very special.”
Karun is aware that all the hard work is just about to begin; that it's going to be a very different world once the season opens with Friday's practice in Bahrain on March 12.
“It's quite a difficult weekend, I'm going with my eyes open, there are no illusions. The first four races will be extremely tough. We'll have to check whether the car is reliable. There are so many things. We'll be competitive by the time we come to Europe.”
F-1's European leg this year opens with the Spanish GP, the fifth round, in early May.
On how much is the pressure, the pressure of expectations of a billion people…or is there no pressure at all because it's a new team and he has not had any test sessions at all, Karun said: “For me, pressure comes from within…I've been doing a lot of things, all the media has called me in the last 24 hours, but it's nothing compared to the pressure I put on myself,” said the Chennai-born star who has had two wins, in 2007 at Belgium and in 2008 in Germany, in the GP2 Series which is feeder series for F-1.
“My aim is to make a solid reputation for myself. This is something which has been my dream all my life. And I just hope I'm in F-1 when we host it next year. To be an Indian driver in the first Indian GP will be terrific,” said Karun.
On whether it was a big advantage to have a friend and a former teammate as your current teammate, Karun replied: “It's not normal for teammates to be friends in racing but Bruno (Senna, his 2008 GP2 Series teammate, and a nephew of the late F-1 legend Ayrton Senna) and I have been friends for four or five years. We are family friends too, our families know each other…I hope to spend some time in Brazil when we go there. We have a very good relationship. I also have a good relationship with the engineers.”
An Indian in the circuit once again…an Indian team in Force India, with foreign drivers which had a stunning run last season…