Team Lotus has finalised its 2011 lineup with the announcement that Karun Chandhok will join the team as reserve driver.
The 27-year-old joins the team after an evaluation period during the preseason tests and will be the official reserve driver for race drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, alongside testing duties with third driver Luiz Razia and testers Davide Valsecchi and Ricardo Teixeira.
The former Hispania driver, who raced for the Spanish team in the first half of 2010, will be thrown straight into action with a run out at Friday practice for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
A statement from Lotus read: “Karun is one of the most exciting and popular drivers in global motorsports and has enjoyed a stellar career in his rise up through the ranks to Formula One.
“He will be taking part in a number of Friday Practice sessions for Team Lotus including FP1 in Melbourne and his technical input and obvious talent will provide the team with more valuable insights into how to optimise the T128’s performance potential on-track, alongside his ambassadorial role for the team as one of its official drivers.”
Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes added: “This is another great day for Team Lotus. Karun's appointment to our team gives us not only his immense driving talent and F1 experience, both of which will help us develop the car even further, but also brings one of the warmest, most professional personalities I have the pleasure of knowing into the Team Lotus family.
“I do not think it is going too far to say that Karun represents the future of motor racing—he is living proof that geography is no boundary to talent and ambition and that you will succeed if you work hard and keep dreaming.
“He is fiercely proud of his Indian heritage but he has a truly global outlook and I am honoured that Team Lotus is now giving one of India’s brightest stars the chance to continue to develop his talent. Everyone in the team is excited about working with Karun, and I cannot wait to see him representing the Indian nation in our car.”
Chandhok said: “I’ve been talking to the team for quite a while about a role with them and I’m delighted we’re now able to confirm that I will be driving for Team Lotus in 2011.
“The details of exactly which sessions I will be in the car for are being worked out now and after having spent some time with them at the recent pre-season tests I can see exactly how passionate everyone in Team Lotus is about taking this team back to the top of the F1 grid.
“These are very exciting times for Team Lotus and it’s a real honour to be able to play a part in helping shape this team’s future. I want to thank Tony, Din, Nasa, Riad and Mike for having the faith in me to give me a chance to help the team develop and I’ll do my best to repay that faith wherever I can.”
It is no surprise that Chandhok has found a role in Formula One this season with the inaugural Indian Grand Prix scheduled for October, and with compatriot Narain Karthikeyan returning with Hispania, there is a real possibility that Chandhok could also race in India.