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Indian drivers dismiss Mallya's critcism

ESPNF1 Staff
July 13, 2011 « Perez and Bianchi to test for Ferrari | »
Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan have defended their positions in F1 © Sutton Images

Indian drivers Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan have hit back at Vijay Mallya after the Force India boss questioned their decisions to drive for smaller teams in F1.

Mallya said he felt no obligation to run an Indian driver at his team and told Reuters: "As far as the existing Indian drivers in Formula One are concerned, I can only feel very sorry for them. They are getting drives by the teams who clearly can't compete. If that's what they want to do, drive a Formula One car for the sake of driving a Formula One car and winding up at the back, I can't do anything about it."

But Chandhok pointed out that neither he nor Karthikeyan had been offered a test for Force India as an alternative.

"I think it's a bit sad that in one breath the chairman of our Indian ASN (national sporting authority) is talking about how much he has done for Indian drivers and then in the next breath he is criticising India's only two Formula One drivers," Chandhok responded through Reuters. "If you are going to criticise people, at least do it with some facts. Having never tested either Narain or myself in one of his cars, he doesn't have the facts."

Karthikeyan said he and Chandhok had both fought very hard to make it to Formula One.

"Against all the odds, both of us have made it to Formula One," Karthikeyan said. "It doesn't matter who I drive for in the Indian Grand Prix. It's just a symbolic and historic moment and one that can show aspiring young drivers what they can do with hard work and effort."

Mallya has launched a campaign to try to find the next Indian F1 talent by holding karting events in the country at local levels. But Chandhok believes India's future stars will have to start out in similar karting categories to the current crop of F1 drivers if they realistically want a place at the top level.

"I understand the need to find the next Indian star, and I use the word next not first, and the need to create more Indian F1 drivers," he said. "But you are not going to find the next Indian star by running events in single-engined four-stroke rental karts on 400 metre tracks made out of concrete."