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Exclusive Karun Chandhok Q&A: It's thrilling but surreal 08 Mar 2010

Karun Chandhok (IND) Hispania F1. Hispania Racing F1 Team Launch, Auditorio de Murcia, Murcia, Spain, 4 March 2010. © HRT HRT Team Launch, Murcia, Spain, 4 March 2010. © HRT Karun Chandhok (IND) HRT Launch, Auditorio de Murcia, Murcia, Spain, 4 March 2010. © HRT HRT Launch, Auditorio de Murcia, Murcia, Spain, 4 March 2010. © HRT The HRT car. HRT Team Launch, Auditorio de Murcia, Murcia, Spain, 4 March 2010. © HRT

Coming the week before the 2010 season gets underway, the launch of the HRT team (formerly Campos) - and the announcement of second driver Karun Chandhok - was a very last-minute affair. Although he is yet to drive the car, and despite the mountain of work and obstacles still facing the team, it’s a dream come true for 26 year-old Chandhok, who had almost lost faith in realising his Formula One ambitions. The second Indian F1 driver in the history of the sport describes his thoughts as he prepares to make his debut this weekend…

Q: Karun, you’ve finally made it to Formula One racing. How do you feel?
Karun Chandhok:
It’s just an unbelievable feeling! I am absolutely thrilled to be able to fulfil a lifelong dream to break into Formula One. We’ve been working for so many years for this opportunity, and now that we’ve finally made it, it feels a bit surreal to be honest. I think it will only fully sink in that I am going to be on the same grid as world champions like Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso when I get to Bahrain.

Q: When did the negotiations with HRT start? You signed the contract at the very last minute…
I had been talking to Adrian Campos since Valencia last year, but things were dragging on for various reasons. We started to look at other options, but then Colin (Kolles) called to say he was going to be taking over the running of the team. We were able to work very quickly with him and, along with Mr Ecclestone’s advice, sorted a deal out.

Q: The team has started from scratch and has signed two rookie drivers. It looks like it could be a difficult mission. Are you ready for the challenge?
I am under no illusions about what we’re in for. At the end of the day, we will be a new team with two rookies and no testing at all, so the first few races will be very hard indeed. The team have some very good engineers and designers and Mr Carabante seems very committed, so as the season progresses I’m optimistic we can be in better shape. But certainly the first part will be all about getting reliability and mileage.

Q: You competed with your new team mate Bruno Senna in GP2, but what the team needs is for you two to work closely together…
Yes, in fact I think we’re ideal for that. It’s rare for team mates to be friends, but Bruno and I get along very well. He and his family are great people and we’re both mature enough to deal with the pressures. At iSport we had a great working relationship with the engineers, so I think we can carry that on this year. We always had a similar style and similar requirements from the car, which is good for the engineers as they can carry out parallel programs.

Q: Is this the right moment and the right team?
I believe that you have to take any opportunities life throws at you. Of course everyone wants to drive for a top team, but if the opportunity isn’t there you have to evaluate the options. Undoubtedly I would rather be racing for HRT than a test driver somewhere else under the new regulations.

Q: When you won your first GP2 race at Spa in 2008, you took your trophy and immediately went to see Mr Ecclestone. He said that he was sure that one day you would be in Formula One. Did you ever doubt his prophecy?
Bernie has always been a superb pillar of support to me and my family. It’s amazing how much that man can do in a single day! This last winter has been very hard and it’s taken us a while to get a deal sorted, so there are always times when you have doubts but in the end it all worked out okay.

Q: You’re the second Indian driver to break into Formula One racing. There is already a strong fan base in India, so the excitement back home must be very strong. What feedback have you had?
It’s been fantastic. I have had so many messages on my Twitter page and my website, that it’s been quite overwhelming. There has been so much support from within India and also the Indian communities around the world, who have said that they will come to the races with Indian flags to support me which is great to hear. The media have been very good over the last few days and the coverage back home has been excellent, I hear.

Q: There are just days to go until the Bahrain Grand Prix and the car hasn’t been on track yet…
Well the first race will just be like a test session. Colin works more hours than most people I know and he has done an amazing job to get Dallara, Cosworth and all the people involved to work like mad and get the car ready for Bahrain. There will be problems - even the established top teams have problems during shakedowns - and our shakedown will be the first practice session on Friday, but we have to stay optimistic and battle through the first few races, before we start to see some solid results.