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Lighting the catalyst - Karun Chandhok suffers embarrassment at the Nürburgring

Published by Leigh O'Gorman

In what should have been a weekend where he made an indelible mark on Formula 1, Karun Chandhok left the Nürburgring with a reputation blunted.

Throughout the weekend, the likeable 27-year-old continuously locked up his front tyres and spun his Lotus T-128, leaving the Indian almost shy of Pirelli's before the race had even begun.

There was some little progress, but one must wonder if it will be enough. After finishing Free Practice 1 on Friday morning some 2.4 seconds shy of teammate Heikki Kovalainen, Chandhok eventually pulled the gap down eight-tenths by qualifying.

Chandhok commented in a BBC interview on Saturday that the aim was to get the gap to Kovalainen to under one second - one must ask when this task was set.

Come the chequered flag, the Indian pilot brought his Lotus machine home safe, albeit four lap adrift of the leaders - and more critically two laps shy of Kovalainen. Indeed, Chandhok was almost a full tour in arrears of HRTF1's Daniel Ricciardo - another driver who is only now adapting to the rigours of Formula 1.

One cannot help but think Chandhok needed to deliver more - much more - than what we saw in Germany and while India is obviously important to Formula 1's perceived future, no one wants to back a losing horse.

Thoughts fall back on the beginnings of the Malaysian Grand Prix, when the inept Alex Yoong found a home at the struggling Minardi squad. Is history repeating itself, as Chandhok closes in on a seat for the inaugural race in Delhi this October?

Alas, these are lessons that Formula 1 must learn. The sheen of Sepang has long since dulled, yet only now is Malaysian talent beginning to filter through the feeder ranks of motor racing.

Putting Chandhok (and HRTF1's Narain Karthikeyan) in an F1 seat when the World Championship goes to Delhi may temporarily boost local interest, but it will not sustain the sport in India long term.

However unlike Yoong in previous years, Chandhok is not completely useless behind the wheel - he is by no means a winning prospect, but with time, a respectable racer might be carved out. Alas, touring cars or a GT programme probably awaits.

Chandhok is also articulate and comes from a well recognised motor racing family. With the right guidance - something Malaysia sorely missed for years - India's first array of drivers may begin to filter up through the ranks quite quickly.

There is no shame in not being a World Champion, but Chandhok could be something more impressive than that - he could be the catalyst for a generation.