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Chandhok makes F1 debut

2010-03-14 17:54

Manama - A message from his mother summed up Karun Chandhok's F1 fortunes on Saturday after the Indian qualified in last place for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

"My mum just sent me a text saying 'Oh, I finally saw your car run'," grinned the ever-patient Hispania (HRT) driver when he caught up with reporters in the Sakhir paddock.

She was not the only one to feel relieved. Indians everywhere had been waiting in vain for a glimpse of the newest arrival in the sport actually in a car.

Chandhok, who will be only the second Indian to race in F1 after Narain Karthikeyan in 2005, will make his debut on Sunday with less experience behind the wheel of his car than any driver in recent memory.

Until Saturday's first knockout qualifying session, he had not even driven it out of a garage, let alone around a corner or down a straight.

The car was flown to Bahrain untested and straight from the Italian Dallara factory after the Spanish-based team won a last-gasp battle for survival.

For three practice sessions, Chandhok was forced to wait and watch as mechanics worked to fix hydraulic problems that left it unable to engage gear.

After a while he stopped asking them any questions to prevent distractions.

"What can I say, a bit chaotic really," said the Chennai-born 26-year-old. "At the last minute we threw everything together and we got out. The session had already started when the floor was being bolted on.

"It was just a shakedown...it was literally just to do some laps and make sure we were okay for the race tomorrow, we went up and down all the gears and made sure everything worked and my seat was okay.

"The seat belts and everything had to be readjusted. It was just a bit of a relief to drive and actually see what the new bit of the circuit is like."

Chandhok only obtained his mandatory super licence on Thursday, granted a special dispensation having not done the requisite distance in testing, on the basis of his past performances in the GP2 support series.

"I can't remember anyone in F1 who has gone straight into qualifying on their F1 debut and in an unknown team or otherwise," he said.

"I didn't want to get in anyone's way and in fact I picked up a lot of dirt on the tyres just by getting out of people's way. We're not here to upset anyone, just here to be respectable and do the best job we can."

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