Karun Chandhok, Lotus, Monza, 2011

Should Chandhok and Karthikeyan race in India?

Debates and pollsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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?”

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  1. After mulling this over all morning, I still can’t decide what I think. There are really good points being made on both sides. I’m glad neither team is going to rely on me to make this decision! ;-)

  2. I voted just Chandhok. What’s the point of having a driver who is most likely not going to give the Indians to cheer about? I have a feeling most of the Indian population would we cheering on a promising driver like Chandhok rather than ‘tried that and failed’ driver in Karthikeyan.

    1. Being from India, I can bet Karthikeyan is admired much more than Chandhok..

      NK is a better driver although not the best in the world but good enough..

      KC really left a lot to be desired in the one off race he got..

      but i would love to see them both race..

      1. KC really left a lot to be desired in the one off race he got..

        But I’ve never driven for… Oh. Never mind.

  3. In American Football, Basketball, and Baseball, teams will bring on a player for post season only or to fill a slot on a roster where another player was underperforming or injured. The thing is, those teams get ticket money at every home game they play and, if you don’t count player salaries, don’t have the costs of an F1 team. Once upon a time, all of these sports would gladly accept “pay players” to meet the bottom line. This is really no different as it is just backmarkers playing musical drivers to meet their bottom line. Frankly, that extra money may make the team more competitive as, if used properly, will speed up development within the smaller team.

  4. How I hate the “it’s not an sport” argument!!!!!

    I think it’s up to the team to decide who races and who doesn’t. And it’s also very nice that a local driver participates in the race. Many great drivers started their careers racing in their country first, renting a car or just getting a ride (until the 80s). Or sometimes locals get to drive during practice (remember Kobayashi at Japan 09?).

    So all in all, I’m not too concerned about it.

    1. He only got a go becuase Glock was ill.

  5. Maybe this is the best case for a third-team-car. In IndyCar, teams occaisionally run an extra car if there is sponsorhip money of if it’s a big race. So if you are going to India or some other marginal market, and you want to add a national driver to draw the crowd, put him in a third car.

    In the end, it should be purely the individual team’s decision.

    As far as the “against” point, I’m not sure what the Indian goverment’s application of its customs rules have to do with the polled question. It’s not like F1 can hold it over the Indian goverment’s head that they won’t run an Indian driver if they don’t relent on the duties.

    However, the interchangeability point is an important insight. The main asterisk over F1’s sports status is the effect of direct, ad hoc payments to teams to seat a driver. But, on the separate issue of the duties, this is an argument in favor of the Indian Customs officials, isn’t it?

  6. I think it’s a nice idea to generate local interest for the first Indian GP. It’s not like they’re taking up spots in front-running cars anyway. If the grid was based solely on talent, more than half of the current drivers wouldn’t be there!

  7. I have alot of respect for Chandhok, he is a brilliant personality and knows alot about F1, but as a driver he is just not good enough. Kathekeyan is a just a joke.

  8. What does it really matter? It has nothing to do with whether either of them are any good or not. It is all about bringing fans to the event and the sum of that action equals revenue and will promote more revenue in the future as attendance, advertising, and interest worldwide increases.

    Nothings new here.It’s the “local boy” in your countries F1 race syndrome.

    Someday there might even be a Grand Prix on Baffin Island if a good enough Eskimo can get on with it.

  9. I voted both as a no. Both have had a chance to show there talent and both have proved they dont hold a candle against there team mates. Would rather they give drivers who have not had a chance a go.

    Having said this Chandhok is a good guy who has only had 1 race in the best of the worst cars so wouldnt grudge him but Karthikeyan has had a season and a half of F1 and is the worst driver to do a F1 race has seen since Yuji Ide

  10. I feel they should race (given the teams give them the opportunity).
    The teams are not exactly fighting for the top spot. So why not give the drivers the chance to show what they can do, in front of their home crowd.

    1. No my friend if you look at the diverse views of knowledgeable fans on this site, its a do or die situation for Lotus and HRT and they are fighting here for top spots on constructors points with Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton and Webber driving those cars :)

  11. If it is only to promote the race I would almost agree, if the race desperately needed to be promoted. But India isn’t the situation that Turkey or China is.
    Furthermore I don’t see the point promoting F1 there if the government doesn’t even recognise it as a sport (based on the customs duty controversy).

  12. Voted no opinion, it’s up to the teams who they put in their cars at the end of the day. Back in the old days they would have just run an extra car, but cant do that any more.

  13. Im Indian and have been watching F1 broadcasts from 1993 onward on Star Sports. I hope to watch my 1st F1 race in October at New Delhi.

    It does not matter to me whether Karthikeyan will be driving in this race or not.

    I hope Chandhok gets to drive in the race – dont think it will make much of a difference to Team Lotus as to who is their 2nd driver in the race.

    1. @Dumb_Man – Thats a nice handle you have, and I am impressed with your understanding of F1 that you have acquired for about 18 years and in light of that your understanding of who deserves for chance in F1 between Chandok and Narain.

      Well done to you :)

  14. As an American, I very much want to see an American driver in our home grand prix. I wouldn’t care if he was at the back of the pack. It’s something a bit special to be able to cheer on someone who represents your home country in what’s considered a global sport. I say let them both drive. Neither is displacing someone fighting for the championship. Keep in mind that this isn’t simply about the politics, but giving people something to invest in on a deeper emotional level. When someone from your country wins or does well, don’t you feel a sense of national pride? Similarly, simply reaching F1 is an accomplishment, so I can understand their desire to let them drive. Make the people happy, brighten their spirits!

  15. I recognise there may be an interest to have the country’s own drivers race in the local grand prix, but especially when the situation seems that way that for whatever reason, the teams don’t think the driver warrants having him in the cockpit for the rest of the season as well, the motorcycle championship practice of allowing “wildcard” drivers to compete in additional vehicles would be a way I would prefer it to be handled, rather than having an established and/or more experienced driver slotted out for a single race.

  16. HounslowBusGarage
    14th September 2011, 21:22

    Not sure if I accept the idea that anyone ‘should’ be driving.
    It would be a great bonus to motorsport in India in general if either of these drivers raced in their home grand prix. But ‘should’?

  17. Pshh… So should Ho Ping Tung (Renault test driver) race in the Chinese Grand Prix?

    1. and honestly letting the Indian pair race is just to attract more Indian sponsorships for the teams. In terms of race “excitement” or anything, I don’t think they’d add or subtract anything, so… honestly I don’t really care. But if the extra money’d help them develop. Why not?!

    2. I think there would be nothing against Renault either running him for FP1 or even getting a Renault engined, back of grid team to run him for the race.

      Look at what Kobayashi showed us once he got just such a chance to hop in for Glock in 2009!
      He wasn’t anything special judging from GP2, but there are not many people who now doubt ist great to have him here. Bruno Senna also suprised many when he got into the Renault at Spa.
      Same might happen for either of these guys.

  18. Hispania needs money in order to be able to keep racing, so if Narain brings more money than Daniel (or Tonio) for the Indian Grand Prix, it would be difficult to object. Yes, having the best driver possible is nice, but not only is there room for debate over whether Narain is the worst of the three (the Hispania is so slow that I’d argue we’ve not seen the best of any of them this year), but there is the point that a driver can’t do a whole lot in F1 without a decent car. For Hispania it could well be a case of (possibly) losing time now to get it back with interest later.

    I’m somewhat more sceptical in the case of Chandhok, primarily because Lotus doesn’t need the money (much as it may like it). If Kovalainen might not be driving for Lotus in 2012, there would be an argument for Karun replacing him for this race to get experience ready for next year, but otherwise a FP1 substitution (in place of whoever’s turn it was this time) would be more appropriate.

  19. Keith? How about you just throw all the names of available drivers in a pool on this web-site and set it up so the ones with the most votes get the rides?
    Charge 5 quid to vote and all the money goes to the two winning teams. Or donate it to the Nick Heidfeld memorial “dumb ass” fund.

  20. This is F1, we want the best driver’s out there, not driver’s picked on their nationality. Narain is to slow and Karun has had an outing in the Lotus already this year and it looked like he was in a safari race as he spent more time off track than on it.

    There are numerous driver’s deserving a chance more so than Narain and Karun.


    Just to name a few

    1. Fair point. But the best drivers don’t always help pay the bills.

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