Kunal's F1 Blog

Should Narain Karthikeyan And Karun Chandhok Drive In The i1 Super Series

Posted on | November 5, 2011 | 6 Comments

There, I finally go about penning my thoughts on this question. Across social media, Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok have been handed drives in the i1 Super Series by default. This is without any indication from either of the drivers, organizers or even the potential team owners. (Read post: Shahrukh Khan To Own Mumbai Franchise In The i1 Super Series) But of course, with the popularity of the first ever Formula1 race in India, the Indian Grand Prix, motorsport fans in India are justified in their thought. (Read post: i1 Super Series Reveals Franchise Owners And More)

However, the bigger PR story around the i1 Super Series will be about its drivers. It has been revealed that each team will be permitted to have three drivers – one international, one Indian and one domestic driver, clearly indicating that the driver line-up has to be mixed. I would suspect that the international driver will be far easier to choose and will be a decision of how much money the franchise owner is willing to spend. Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard have been linked with a drive, whereas, former Formula1 driver Ralf Schumacher has declined interest in the series. The difficult part will come when it comes to selecting the Indian and domestic drivers, because there are only a few.

Leaving that aside, the two Indian drivers who have yet stayed away from the i1 Super Series limelight and news are India’s only Formula1 drivers, Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok. I am certain that it is a conscious decision from both drivers to ‘wait and watch’ how the Indian Racing League unfolds – not a bad strategy I would say. However, my basic question is: should Narain and Karun consider racing the i1 Super Series at all?

Mixed thoughts and hence I am sharing them as pros and cons below:

Pros:

-          Indian Racing League will have Indian teams, Indian owners and Indian drivers in it. Probably the most popular of the Indian motorsport events. Best chance for Narain and Karun to become household names and brands in India.

-          The i1 Super Series will be promoting domestic racing drivers which would offer Narain and Karun a chance to promote younger racing talent too.

-          A chance to race against the best of the international racing car drivers and showcase their mettle in front of the Indian crowds.

-          Considering the amount of money being pumped into the sport by the organizers and franchise owners, the i1 Super Series could well turn out to be a money spinner for Narain and Karun. After all, who wouldn’t want India’s only Formula1 drivers racing in their team for both performance and marketing reasons!

-          This can be considered as a winter racing series, might as well drive and keep yourself race fit. Especially given the winter testing ban in Formula1.

-          Last but not the least, the Indian Racing League is in some ways a dream come true for both drivers – finally, a racing series in India. Drive for the heck of it!

Cons:

-          The i1 Super Series will be using the Radical SR3 car in the races with a 210 bhp engine. Won’t this be too much of a step backwards for Narain and Karun considering that they are currently racing in Formula1 with engines that produce near about 800 bhp? (Read post: Indian Racing League Launched, Welcome The i1 Super Series)

-          What if I get beaten by a junior driver? This will be a question on their heads while making this decision. Not the best way to progress in your racing career, where you come down a few formulae and are unable to win or get beaten by junior drivers around you.

-          What if I am unable to match the pace of the international drivers? Both Narain and Karun haven’t had the best of Formula1 seasons yet. Their Formula1 pace has been questioned time and again and should a Hakkinen-Coulthard participate and remain unmatchable, would this damage their racing career and brand in the country?

-          i1 Super Series is not considered as a feeder series to Formula1 and is a winter racing series. Since Narain and Karun’s immediate goal is to secure a long-term career in Formula1, would participation in the i1 Super Series help?

Like I said before, I am not too sure what Narain and Karun would do, however, the above pros and cons will be playing in their minds as well. It will be important for both drivers to keep in their minds that should they participate in the i1 Super Series, it would be about being the ‘best driver’ overall and NOT the ‘best Indian driver’!

And for all Narain Karthikeyan fans, one must remember that the age limit prescribed by Machdar Motorsport is only 30, which technically means they will have to make an exception for India’s first ever Formula1 driver.

What do you think? (Share your thoughts in the column section below)

And if you wish to know my gut feel? Both of them will certainly be driving!

Comments

6 Responses to “Should Narain Karthikeyan And Karun Chandhok Drive In The i1 Super Series”

  1. Dinto
    December 18th, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

    A certain no,,,,.!!!!i gues he shouldnt…focusing on f1… should be his aim…”he l always lead the throne frm india..”neva should look bak…

  2. Navin
    December 19th, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

    I have always maintained and people close to Narain know dat he is a really fast driver and just needs a good car and hence should better try his luck in F1. Karun too seems to be good and with age on his side , he shud stay away from i1…though reports say he has joined in !

  3. Arul
    December 21st, 2011 @ 6:22 am

    Its a no brainer. Both of them should be part of the league. If they love the sport put your money where your mouth is!

  4. Kunal Shah
    December 21st, 2011 @ 9:07 am

    Thanks Arul. It seems KC is in and NK is not. If sights are on F1, I don’t know if i1 could necessarily help as explained in my post above.

  5. W.A Trichlorostyrene
    January 11th, 2012 @ 11:48 pm

    Kunal, I think you are trying too hard to come up with “cons”.

    - “The i1 Super Series will be using the Radical SR3 car in the races with a 210 bhp engine. Won’t this be too much of a step backwards for Narain and Karun considering that they are currently racing in Formula1 with engines that produce near about 800 bhp?”: Many F1 drivers are doing karting during the off season in order to keep themselves fit. The difference of machinery is even bigger than “F1 vs Radical”, yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard about anyone losing abilities to drive F1 cars just because he has done too much karting during the winter. If you go ride a bicycle, it does not mean you will automatically forget forever how to ride a motorbike while doing so.

    Maybe you’d have a point -if- they decided to compete in another -high level- championship during the regular season. Take the case of Danica Patrick. She tried to have a double program in NASCAR and IndyCar in 2010 and 2011, and it probably hurt her focus on IndyCar. But, you also have the opposite case of Jaime Alguersuari, who drove in both F1 and World Series by Renault in 2009, and coped with that rather well.

    - “What if I get beaten by a junior driver?” and “What if I am unable to match the pace of the international drivers?”: This does not matter at all at the end of the day. For the international drivers, i1 is an exhibition championship. Failing to get decent results will not hurt their career. F1 Team managers will always look at the drivers’ performance in feeder series and F1, rather than some exhibition Radical championship. The Radical has no relevance to top-level single seaters anyway.

    - “i1 Super Series is not considered as a feeder series to Formula1 and is a winter racing series. Since Narain and Karun’s immediate goal is to secure a long-term career in Formula1, would participation in the i1 Super Series help?”: See previous point. No, but it wouldn’t affect it either.

    Keep up the good work Kunal, although the “opinion” parts are sometimes a bit naive and uninformed, your articles are still nice read overall.

    Regards

  6. Kunal Shah
    January 13th, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    Thanks for the comment and to be honest, I am trying hard to reach a rationale behind their participation. If F1 is their goal, I see more ‘cons’ than ‘pros’ and hence is my opinion. Much like Narain said, participation in the i1 Super Series would only be about the money for him as in his existing career path, the i1 doesn’t necessarily lead to progress into Formula1. You can’t deny that the i1 Series will benefit the younger racers more than the experienced ones.

    As for the F1 vs Radical point, what I was trying to say is that it is sometimes beneficial to take a step backwards, to go a few steps forward. Narain has done it after his F1 debut and now Karun too has declared his WEC entry. However, the i1 Series is yet to prove its mettle in terms of competition and for sure till it does so, it is way too many steps backward for any driver currently targetting Formula1. One does wonder how come barring a Liuzzi and Chandhok no other current F1 driver has signed up even though plenty were approached?

    The being beaten by a juniour driver is important for the brand of an F1 driver, especially in India, where the Indian sporting mindset associates only with winners. The last thing a Narain or Karun would want is that brand image of theirs (fastest racers in India?) to be affected. This is true for most F1 drivers that I have spoken to as well.

    Thanks for the comment, good word and feedback on my ‘opinion’ driven writing. Keep reading and keep racing!

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