Chandhok sets sights on reserve role

Karun Chandhok says he would be willing to sit on the sidelines as a reserve driver this year if it helped secure him a race seat in the longer term.
The Indian, who made his debut for HRT last season, has been exploring other options for several months now as he looks to continue in grand prix racing – and the focus has been put back on his plans following compatriot Narain Karthikeyan signing a deal to join his former outfit.
Chandhok has recently been linked with the reserve driver role at Team Lotus, and he admits that he would be willing to go down that route if it helped him secure a race drive for 2012 and beyond.
“I want something for the medium and long term – not just for 2011,” Chandhok told AUTOSPORT on Friday. “What I do in 2012 and 2013 is important. If that means taking a back seat, as reserve driver next year, then so be it – a bit like what Paul di Resta did in 2010. As long as it is somewhere further up the grid, then that is the best option.”
Chandhok said he never entered into detailed talks with HRT for this year, and his efforts were always on joining a new team.
“I wasn’t chasing the HRT drive in 2011,” he explained. “The team didn’t make much progress last year and, at the time when we last spoke to them, it didn’t sound like there was a huge amount in the pipeline for this year. I had one year with them, and I am grateful and will always be grateful to them for getting me a foot in the door. But now I’m looking elsewhere.”
Chandhok says that he remains in discussions with parties about his 2011 plans, but did admit that a tie-up with Team Lotus would be of interest to him – and beneficial to the Hingham-based outfit and its team principal Tony Fernandes.
“I like Tony’s attitude about building an Asian team,” he said. “He has been quite vocal about it, and talked in the past about building a team with Asian drivers and staff. For me to go there would be a big benefit to him too, especially as AirAsia is now flying to India.
“The team progressed well last year with its structure. There are a lot of good people there, and they invested well for the future. It seems like a good place to be for the immediate future – but at the moment nothing is done. Everything is still up in the air.”
Chandhok also reckoned that the presence of Karthikeyan, whose deal with HRT was announced yesterday, in F1 will be a huge boost to the sport in India ahead of its inaugural grand prix this year.
“The more Indians we can have around F1, the better it is for the sport,” said Chandhok.
When asked if it was good or bad for him that there was another Indian on the grid, Chandhok said: “It makes no difference to me.
“It has been a pain in terms of all the telephone calls I have had today about it, but apart from that it makes no difference to me. The financial backing he has got is a long-term sponsor of his, so it doesn’t take anything away from me, and he has taken a seat which I wasn’t interested in.”

By Jonathan Noble,

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