STRONG RUN TO FIRST POINTS FOR KARUN
Istanbul, Turkey: India's Karun Chandhok showed opened his points account in the second round of the GP2 Series - Formula 1's feeder formula at Turkey's Istanbul Park at the weekend.
The 24-year-old from Chennai, who is backed by Red Bull, JK Tyre, Amaron and ICSA Logistics, finished fourth from seventh on the grid in Saturday's feature race after a strong start. He was closing the gap on the battle between second and third, Renault F1 test driver Romain Grosjean and Andreas Zuber, when a safety car halted his charge, and allowed his rivals to pit under caution.
Chandhok started the weekend with 11th fastest time in free practice, but he improved his pace a lot when it came to qualifying. He was running in the top five when his final run was compromised by traffic and yellow flags, and he dropped to seventh in the closing moments: "It wasn't a bad qualifying for me, but a couple more tenths and I would have moved up the grid quite a few places," he said.
Karun got just the start he wished for, and made up those places he'd wanted to in qualifying just seconds into the feature race. With Adam Carroll, Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado all making poor starts in front of him, Chandhok scorched into Turn 1 on the tail of the leaders in fourth place.
He found a good rhythm, and spent the first few laps less than a second behind Zuber. However, a technical gremlin in his gearshift system meant that he lost a second a lap on two tours, when his gearbox failed to upshift correctly: "Without that problem I would have been able to stay with them, no problem. Even after dropping those two seconds, the gap stayed the same." he said.
Chandhok pitted on lap 18, and his pace on new rubber meant he was the fastest man on track, setting 3 consecutive fastest laps in an effort to close down the two cars in front. Just as his pace meant he was catching those ahead, who were yet to make their mandatory pitstop, the safety car was required for Alberto Valerio's stranded car at Turn 8. Karun got caught behind the safety car, while the leaders dived into the pits unhindered.
After the restart, the lapped Campos car of Ben Hanley refused to get out of his way, ruining any hopes he had of gaining further places.
"It was all going so well until the safety car appeared," he said. "Our team boss Paul Jackson spoke to Campos on the pitwall, to ask if Hanley could get out of the way, but Ben just stayed there for nearly two laps, slowing me down. There was no way I could catch the leaders after that, and they were on fresher rubber anyway. But I was so pleased with my pace today, banging in quick times lap after lap. It's a very satisfying way to get our first points. The team did a great job with the car and the pitstop was very good as well."
In Sunday's sprint race, Karun would start fifth on the reverse grid but was less fruitful. Karun got held up by a slow starting Adam Carroll and dropped to seventh place on the opening lap. He then started battling hard to pass Javier Villa and get back into the points. Alas, his lunge down the inside of the Spaniard at Turn 12 ended in a spin, and Karun spent the rest of the race mired in a midfield battle. He eventually finished 12th.
Chandhok's next race is the third round of GP2 around the streets of Monaco on May 23/24. "I can't wait until Monaco, which is the most famous grand prix of them all. The street circuit there is famous around the world, and it's a real honour to race there, and I'm determined to add to my points score there."