Team Lotus have confirmed today that test and reserve driver Karun Chandhok will not be racing for them at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix this weekend.
It was thought that either Heikki Kovalainen or Jarno Trulli would be forced to make way for the Indian driver at his home race, just as Vitantonio Liuzzi will do for Narain Karthikeyan at HRT, but instead Chandhok will only drive in FP1 on Friday morning.
“I am very excited about driving at the new Buddh International Circuit in FP1 in front of my home crowd and while I am obviously disappointed that I won't have the chance to race on Sunday, I accept the team's decision to opt for the experience and talent they have at their disposal with Jarno and Heikki,” said Chandhok graciously.
“This is a team that is still young, still growing, and I know that they have to do their best to secure their future in the sport – sometimes the hard decisions have to be made, and in this case it must have been a very difficult choice, but I understand that this isn't about me. It's about the team and everything the 254 people on track and back at the factory are doing to build for the future.
“For me, I believe that I have grown as a driver in and out of the car this year with my role in the Friday practice sessions and I'm looking forward to playing my part in helping the team have another strong weekend on track.”
Team boss Tony Fernandes said that, whilst he understands that the Indian fans will want to see their compatriot Chandhok in the car on Sunday afternoon, he had to make a difficult decision for the sake of the team.
“From the team perspective the key goal for us this weekend is to maintain the performance levels we saw in the last two races and while I am sure there will be fans in India who want to see Karun race for us on Sunday we had to make the best decision for the future of the team,” explained Fernandes.
“While all the emotional reasons for him driving were right we were conscious that the limited running he has had in the car this season, largely due to the weather conditions that have hit most of his FP1 sessions, has not given him the best preparation for this race, so we have taken the very difficult decision not to run him in the race this weekend.
“It is absolutely vital that we secure tenth place in 2011 to give us the platform to keep growing and despite the fact that Karun's performance levels have continued to improve every time he has driven for us in 2011, it was considered too much pressure to put on Karun to drive in his first home race, deal with all the attention he would have had and be able to perform at the same level as either of our regular race drivers over the whole weekend.
“For that reason we had to take the pragmatic decision to put our faith in the experience and pace we have in Jarno and Heikki, and are confident they will continue to perform at the level they have over the last two years with us. While this is obviously not the decision Karun wanted us to take he understands that we have to take the long-term view and do so in the best interests of the team.
“He also understands that his relationship with our team is not about just one race, it is about growing together and while this is an historic event, there will be many opportunities to race in India in the future, and he is in the best possible place with us to take advantage of those chances in seasons to come.”