Karun Chandhok, who is busy testing for the Formula E — world’s first electric racing series — due this September, takes some time out of his cramped schedule and, in a freewheeling chat with indianexpress.com, puts forth his views on Lewis Hamilton, the ongoing F1 season and the future of F1 in India. Excerpts:
We have been hearing a lot of things about FRICS(Front and Rear Interconnected Suspension) , does it really benefit the cars and the teams?
You know, if it didn’t benefit why would they use it? so definitely it benefits, but it’s a night and day thing. There has been a lot of talk and noise about it but it is the people in Germany who are the usual suspects. It’s nothing unusual. Mercedes are still on top and Red Bull, Mclaren and Ferrari are still following, so nothing has dramatically changed. I would say it was a point 2 or point 3 of a change per lap.
A noted F1 writer – Mark Hughes – after the German Grand Prix tweeted the FRICS has brought Red Bull closer to Mercedes. What is your take on that?
Mark is also speculating at the end of the day. He is also speculating like everybody else. Nobody knows. For instance now we will go to Budapest(Hungary) and the Red Bulls will be faster than the Mercedes because of high downforce of the circuit, I guarantee you. Whether it is FRICS or no-FRICS, Red Bull will be closer to Mercedes at Budapest because of the nature of the circuit. I think people are already getting excited.
Can Red Bull get close to Mercedes this season?
Red Bull is not going to win the championship this year. I don’t think there is any chance of that. The driver’s championship will be won by either Nico( Rosberg) or Lewis(Hamilton), so there is no question about that. Certain races they (Red Bulls) will be closer to the Mercedes. Budapest will be one of them and Suzuka (Japan) will be another one. There will be other circuits like Belgium spa or Monza where Red Bull will have no chance.
Why such difference this year?
It’s all about the engine power. We all know Mercedes has the best engine in the grid and Renault has the weakest.
What changes had the Mercedes made in their engine? They have been flying this season.
I have been making this point from last year – teams having engine and shaft in the same roof will benefit, and they (Mercedes) have done it to the best effect. Their engineers have done a good job. But then it’s not about the engine. You see Mclaren has the same engine but they are nowhere closer. I think it’s about the shaft and the aerodynamics, and there they have been doing a good job.
What do you make of Rosberg-Hamilton rivalry?
I am glad that the team is allowing them to fight with each other, otherwise there would be no story and it would have been a boring season. I think Nico (Rosberg) has been a surprise this season. Many expected Lewis to dominate over Nico but he has really stepped to the plate. He is driving good and he is really intelligent. He is soaking the pressure.
Vettel’s performance has degraded. He has lost some ground this year.
Yes, it’s a slow situation for Vettel. You know he came to this season after four world championships. I think Vettel has got two problems: his driving style has not suited a car with more downforce and now, minus the blown diffusers, he is suffering a little bit. But at the end of the day, you are a four-time world champion and should be able to drive any car and must adapt to any car.
His style of driving had been so peculiar on slow-speed corners where he would used to break late; turn into the car aggressively, and then used the blown diffusers to brake on to the corner exit, and that was his real key in the previous seasons. He is a great driver but he’s having a difficult season. Every sportsperson has a bad time whether you are Sachin Tendulkar or a Rafael Nadal.
Williams or to be specific Valtteri Bottas has been quite good and defended his lead against Lewis Hamilton in Germany, what do you make of that?
I think they have the same engine as of Mercedes and they had a huge restructuring of their staff. They totally restructured their technical, engineering and aerodynamics department and now they are reaping the benefit of it.
Where do you see F1 as a sport in India five years from now on?
F1 is low on priority. There are other socio-economic issues. It’s been three years F1 has reached India but all the financial burden has been taken by the JP group so the entire credit for the race goes to them. I think it is unfair to carry on for the JP group, and to shoulder the entire finance for a race which India claims to be its own. I mean they can’t go on wasting 50 million every year. They need some help from the govt. It’s unfair to expect that they should burden the thing every year.
Any Indian driver who had impressed you in the recent past?
There are two guys who are doing a good job. One is Arjun Bedi from Bangalore, he is currently competing in Formula- 4, and has already won a race, he is a mature young kid. And then there is Jehan Daruwala. He is another one who is doing a good job. But they are still 15 or 16. So, they are still 7 or 8 years away from racing.