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:
– 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!
– 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!