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Force India give Chandhok hope

September 08, 2008 12:15 IST


Karun Chandhok

India's Karun Chandhok could have a testing role with Force India next year but the country will have to wait for its next Formula One driver, according to team owner Vijay Mallya [Images].

"I would love to give Karun a go as a test driver first. The race seat I think he is a year away from," the drinks and aviation billionaire said at the Belgian Grand Prix.

"I need to see him winning GP2 consistently, not an odd one here and there.

"He has it in him to do it and when he does it, sure I would love to have an Indian driver in the car if I could," added Mallya.

"But at the end of the day, on the one hand I cannot be encouraging the team's performance and then doing something that might compromise the result.

"I don't believe that Karun is there yet. I'm not saying he won't get there. I am hoping he will."

Chandhok, 24, has won two races in the GP2 support series, including his first at Spa last year and in Germany [Images] this season, and is India's best prospect since Narain Karthikeyan [Images] raced for now-defunct Jordan in 2005.

Force India currently have Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi as their test and reserve driver while compatriot Giancarlo Fisichella partners Germany's Adrian Sutil in the race lineup.

Mallya gave a clear indication that 35-year-old Fisichella, a race winner with Renault and now in his 13th season, would continue in 2009.

"This team desperately needs the experience of Giancarlo, has needed it, and as we design a brand new car for 2009, needs it even more," he said.

LOOKING AHEAD

"This team has never had the benefit in the last three or four years of an experienced driver.

"I breed and race horses, and what the jockey tells you, nobody else can," added Mallya. "You can have the best trainer in the world, but you need a jockey to tell you how good or bad the horse is.

"Similarly, I firmly believe driver feedback on a car is invaluable and that is where Giancarlo is performing a very valuable role for us."

Force India have yet to score a point this season, although they came close in Monaco where Sutil ran in fourth place until Ferrari's [Images] Kimi Raikkonen [Images] shunted him out just seven minutes from the finish.

Mallya said most of his attention is now on 2009 and ensuring Ferrari-powered Force India are best placed to take advantage of new regulations. Negotiations are ongoing with Ferrari to secure a broader package.

"I am concentrating on getting myself a drivetrain and KERS [kinetic energy retrieval system]," he said. "There's no way we can develop KERS. it would be stupid even to attempt it.

"My preference is to buy a full drivetrain [engine and transmission] from somebody and I have asked Ferrari because they are my partner.

"Hopefully they will give it to me at a sensible price. If they don't, then I have a problem and may have to look elsewhere," said Mallya. "But there's no dearth of potential suppliers."

© Copyright 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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