Should Chandhok and Karthikeyan race in India?

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Karun Chandhok, Lotus, Monza, 2011

Karun Chandhok, Lotus, Monza, 2011

F1 could have two Indian drivers on the grid for next month’s inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan are tipped to make one-off appearances at Lotus and HRT.

But should F1 teams drop their regular drivers to make way for sponsor-friendly local talent?


Just a few weeks ago we were discussing how F1 had failed to create local interest in Turkey, whose Grand Prix disappeared from the calendar after just seven years.

Promoting local drivers in this way can only be good for F1’s profile in an important new market.

It’s also good to see teams giving other drivers a chance to make names for themselves in Formula 1.


The Indian government has refusing to allow the teams to avoid customs duties, as is the practice at other races. This could jeopardise the running of the race.

The government has done so claiming F1 is ‘entertainment’ rather than ‘sport’. This is a transparent attempt to make more money from the race. As written here earlier, claiming F1 is not sport is ignorant nonsense.

But that fact is undermined when drivers who are supposed to be racing on merit are shown to be interchangeable with those bringing more funds or attention.

I say

In one sense, I’m rather ambivalent about this debate – it’s up to the teams to decide who they put in their cars.

But I do think it asks some interesting questions about how far F1 should go the court popularity in new venues, and whether the sport is diminished by having its regular competitors replaced by others who are more appealing to local audiences.

The shortage of opportunities for new drivers to gain testing mileage makes it hard to fault teams trying to promote emerging talent. But that description does not fit a driver who made his F1 debut six years ago.

You say

Should Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan race in India?

  • Chandhok and Karthikeyan should get to race (34%)
  • Just Chandhok should get to race (28%)
  • Just Karthikeyan should get to race (2%)
  • Neither driver should get to race (24%)
  • No opinion on which driver should get to race (12%)

Total Voters: 289

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143 comments on Should Chandhok and Karthikeyan race in India?

  1. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 14th September 2011, 10:12

    It’ll be a nice novelty for the fans, just hope it won’t be a habit.

  2. Dutch_Alex said on 14th September 2011, 10:12

    But that fact is undermined when drivers who are supposed to be racing on merit are shown to be interchangeable with those bringing more funds or attention.

    While I agree that there are better choices for drivers than Chandhok and Karthikeyan, I think both did a decent job with the equipment they had. You can’t have a grid full of Vettels, Hamiltons and Alonsos anyway. And if putting them in the car brings in extra money and publicity for both their respective teams and the Grand Prix in India, I don’t mind if the teams do so.

  3. Mallesh Magdum (@malleshmagdum) said on 14th September 2011, 10:14

    i am an Indian…i can say one thing for sure, for F1 to be popular in India, local representation is required…Period!…..during the Commonwealth Games, the events without Indian participation had no spectators, literally!! If u ask ‘what does f1 stand to earn from India?’, just look at cricket…..India’s 3 World cup victories have made the intl cricket council one of the most richest sporting federations!

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 14th September 2011, 10:19

      So, that’s a valid point, if a bit sad. There clearly should be a way F1 can do better to get new people in. But I still doubt this is the way to do it.

      I will concede that in this instance, as a one off to celebrate a race in a new country, for teams that don’t have much change of getting points, and aren’t likely to have this one race decide the 10th WCC spot, I can live with it.

      But I think there have to be ways to do better in the future.

    • That is sad, really. You should go to see and F1 event if you’re a fan of F1, of the sport, because F1 is a sport where everyone plays at once.

      It’s like how I bet the grandstands of Monza would be empty if Ferrari weren’t in the sport. So much for a love of motor racing and of F1… they’re just there to see a red car. You can see a red car anywhere, to be honest.

      If the people of india don’t want to turn out to watch F1 if there isn’t an indian driver or team (Force India are British, after all), then F1 shouldn’t be racing there. Just like they’ve finally realised with Turkey.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 14th September 2011, 17:55

        To be fair, once there, and while they appreciate a Ferrari on the podium more than any other car, the Tifosi at Monza cheer for good moves by others (especially if not on a Ferrari, true).

      • javlinsharp said on 14th September 2011, 18:50

        I agree with the OP. Indian people will show up way more if their countrymen are represented. You have to realize, personal car ownership in India is a relatively new thing. They do not have the long US or EU heratige of “car culture”.

        Agreed, and Indian driver will not affect the hard-core Indian F1 fan, but thats not the point. The point is to INCREASE VIEWERSHIP of F1 in this new market. For this goal, KC and NK make complete sense.

        That said, its still a bit distastful to have such a blatent consession for commercial interests. Just another gross reminder that, to the FOM, fans, racers, cars are only a medium for gaining profits.

  4. More Indian more opinions, so let me add mine.
    I don’t think, presence of any of them will act as a crowd puller, in fact, I will go to that extent in stating that even presence of Force India won’t do better (I am a hardcore FI fan).
    Lots of facts to support that:
    – People here are much obsessed with likes of Hamilton, Alonso, Shumacher. Only handful of people knows Sutil and DiResta
    – Although cricket is touching its saturation point, Tennis and Football (espcially EPL) still way ahead in popularity than F1
    – Many sports enthustiast are bugged by the fact that what’s fun in watching a car zooming past you for a fraction a second.
    Indian GP will defintely boost F1 in India but it has nothing to do with Karun, Narain and even FI.

    Crazy Force India and f1 fan

    • icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 14th September 2011, 14:09

      Only handful of people knows Sutil and DiResta

      They all know who Sutil and DiResta is.

      Only handful of people might support Sutil and DiResta though they are obsessed with Hamilton, Alonso, Shumacher.

  5. If the Indian Goverment cannot call F1 a sport but whant to make money out of F1 Then F1 should Charge the Indian Goverment or Pull Out

    • Williams4Ever said on 14th September 2011, 18:26

      Only party that makes money out of F1 is Bernie/Commercial rights holders.

      The tracks that run in losses by running F1 races per Bernie’s demands and eventually go their governments for bailout (using tax payers monies) are a good proof of that.

      If Government of India is not making any exceptions to F1 circus when it comes to taxes, customs and tariffs good for them, more and more Governments should take a leaf out of India’s book IMO

  6. I think having an Indian driver race at home would be terrific but only if it was a driver that was their because of talent rather than a PR exercise. It’ll be good to get some interest in the race and so I suppose it comes down to whether the ends justifies the means but it just doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I watch F1 to see the very best single seat racers fight out and I know with pay-drivers and the fact racing’s so hard to get into in the first place means the field is rather limited in a way but that’s no need to dilute it further. In a dream world India and countries without a strong racing background would get into the sport because they were inspired by what they saw but that’s unlikely so while I accept this is a good but cynical idea I don’t like it much.

  7. In principle F1 drivers should be picken on merit. However, it has long been practice that drivers that bring money or sponsorship, sometimes (often?) get picked over the ones that bring only their talent and effort.

    In a way, Karthikeyan and Chandhok bring much-needed publicity — and, albeit indirectly, money — from Indian companies and the general Indian public. So I don’t see any problem with teams running Indian drivers for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

  8. Dan_the_McLaren_fan (@dan_the_mclaren_fan) said on 14th September 2011, 10:47

    I voted no opinion.

    First because I don’t really care for the small teams.
    And second, because there as much as good reasons than bad ones to put these two drivers in a F1 race. Yes, it could attract more Indians to the track, and it could help F1 become more popular there but is it worth to see two Indians fighting for the 23rd position? Kartikheyan and Chandhok haven’t driven much this year, and are not really at ease in their cars : I don’t think they will shine, I think they’ll probably be bad if they get to drive in their home race. Another fact to take into account is that Chandhok and Kartikheyan aren’t young, and I don’t think they have a long future in F1 : driving at their home race could accelerate the end of their career, but it would be also a good place to end it.

    As I said, I don’t really care, the team bosses and the drivers surely know better than me what’s best for them :)

  9. gavmaclean said on 14th September 2011, 10:54

    Neither should get to race. Both are ridiculously useless. I mean Chandock makes Lotus keeping Trulli look like a coup. It’s just playing to the marketing people thinking that India are gonna shell out money and get excited about two substandard drivers.

  10. Let’s not forget that Ricciardo only got his seat because RBR is paying HRT to let him drive. So talented or not, he’s only racing right now because of money. If they let Karthikeyan do one more race because of money, what difference does it really make? I just hope that Riccardio can get a better seat next year.

  11. Zadak (@thezadak) said on 14th September 2011, 12:12

    Chandhok has some possibilities to improve
    Karthekayen is a waste of time.

    The last thing a new-to-F1 country needs is a driver who is not going to do well at all.

  12. antonyob said on 14th September 2011, 12:44

    Who cares what the monkeys do! not me, if some crazy sponsor wants to give Chandok a drive good luck to them. Its kind of a non issue but to say you dont think so and so should get a drive becasue you dont like them is perhaps even more bonkers. Sport isnt a personality contest its a talent contest and perhaps a $$$$ (or should that be yen nowadays) contest. Ive never got this personality driven rating of drivers. They sit in a carbon fibre box with a helmet on. Everything that is important is done on the track. They may have a racing personality but whether they scowl or grin out of the car is no concern of mine and frankly you’re watching the wrong sport if you want well rounded team players.

  13. graham452 (@graham452) said on 14th September 2011, 12:45

    I voted neither.

    I think that this whole situation is ridiculous. People saying it will help raise the profile of F1 in India. If there isn’t an audience at present, Karun and Narin are hardly going to inspire a nation, the Goverment can’t even get behind the F1 race.

    I think the bigger question is why is F1 going to India in the first place.

  14. Makes no odds to anyone what-so-EVER!!

    Neither team are contending so its not as if it actually matters to the points standings etc…..
    Its a non-argument really.

    If it was a points scoring team then it would be a different story. I dont agree with running reserve drivers in first practice either as that in it’s self is a disadvantage for the drive who does not get out on track yadda yadda yadda.

  15. Neither driver should get to race.

    Hiring a pay driver for the whole season is one thing. For sure, pay drivers would not belong to F1 in a perfect world. But a full season in F1 at least gives the pay driver the chance to develop, improve his performance and become a half-decent driver. A single race does not give even that chance, it’s pure marketing that hasn’t much to do with sports anymore.

    Indians will probably be happy to see their contrymen on the grid but I’m not sure that this the right way to attract their attention if we think long-term. How will those new spectators feel two weeks later when they’ll turn on the TV to watch Abu Dhabi GP and will see nor Karthikeyan neither Chandhok there? They might be disappointed.

    Remember, it’s a poor country that’s new to F1. They probably don’t have much understanding of what F1 is about. A lot of Malaysian journalists and fans could not understand why Alex Yoong was not as quick as Michael Schumacher during early 2000s. Their knowledge of F1 has been improving since then but it’s a long process.

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