Team Lotus Make the Right Decision for the Indian Grand Prix

Antony HerbertAnalyst IIIOctober 25, 2011

YEONGAM-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 14:  Karun Chandhok of India and Team Lotus prepares to drive during practice for the Korean Formula One Grand Prix at the Korea International Circuit on October 14, 2011 in Yeongam-gun, South Korea.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

This weekend see's a momentous occasion in the form of the debut Indian Grand Prix. Following in the footsteps of Malaysia, China, Singapore, Korea and Abu Dhabi the race in Uttar Pradesh continues a tour of new Asian tracks that are reshaping the sport for the better. 

With any new Grand Prix you would hope that there is a home-grown talent to boost the spectacle and create an extra focal point for the racing weekend. 

A new country providing a new Grand Prix gives many country folk the opportunity to immerse themselves within a sport they may not have taken much  notice of before, especially if they have a home-grown competitor to cheer on. 

Yet sadly for Indian hopes, the drivers who have come through the ranks of late have been average at best. 

Only two have touched the surface of the Formula 1 in recent years. 

Narain Karthikeyan drove for Jordan in 2005, with his best result a fourth place finish in the infamous six starter grid in USA. His overall uneventful first season meant he would have to wait six years for his next drive. This return at Hispania, however, was cut short midway through the 2011 season. A run of uninspired performances caused him to lose his seat and be replaced by up-and-coming star Daniel Ricciardo. 

Probably the stronger Indian driver is Karun Chandhok. Despite only winning two Grand Prix in GP2, he gained a seat at Hispania in 2010. Though, like Karthikeyan, he only lasted a certain number of races as Bruno Senna took over in Germany. 

Karun did make one start this season, replacing Jarno Trulli in the 2011 German Grand Prix. He started 20th and finished 20th, but swiftly handed back the drive for Hungary. 

YEONGAM-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 15:  Heikki Kovalainen of Finland and Team Lotus drives during qualifying for the Korean Formula One Grand Prix at the Korea International Circuit on October 15, 2011 in Yeongam-gun, South Korea.  (Photo by Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

You have to feel slightly sorry for both drivers in that they were never given effective cars to fully demonstrate their abilities. 

But at the same time, when talk emerged of both drivers maybe gaining a seat for the Indian Grand Prix, you couldn't help but think that the respective teams would be taking a risk. For sure both drivers would get to run in their home Grand Prix. Whether or not they could produce anything worthy of note is another matter, but for the fans to have a partial reason to commit to future seasons in India it provided a cause. 

I can't help but feel that the teams should remember the ideal of "if it isn't broken, don't fix it." Both Chandok and Karthikeyan were rumored to take drives for two of the back-end outfits.  

Team Lotus were Chandok's hope of landing a drive, but unfortunately for him they have announced that they will stick with their regular drivers Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, thus keeping Chandok in the reserve driver slot. 

Hispania, on the other hand, are willing to let Vitantonio Liuzzi make way for Karthikeyan. It will afford the Indian viewership an Indian driver in their opening Indian Grand Prix. 

The reason for Team Lotus's decision not to offer Chandok the drive is clear. Whilst none of the three new teams for 2010 have penetrated the points scoring positions, there are many advantages to finishing the season the best of the three. 

A top-10 constructors finish, based on the highest finish rather than points scored, gives financial benefits and an increase in garage space and motor homes to the best performing team. The way things stand, Team Lotus look and have always appeared the most likely to succeed.

Heikki Kovalainen has on occasions found himself contending positions with Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber drivers, and looks to continue to do so. Trulli is not far behind also and his experience is being utilised by the team to edge them closer to top-10 results. 

To risk this position by placing an unproven and arguably mediocre driver in place of either Trulli or Kovalainen therefore seems illogical. Their decision is harsh on the mass of Indian fans expected to travel to the track on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but from their own point of view it is the consequence of ambition. 

Whilst the nation of India will only get to see their strongest driver in the Friday practice session, at least they will have a participant in the race. 

And for the grid as a whole, with a stronger driver lineup at Team Lotus, maybe they could gain a result that would allow them in the future to make the back end of the pack a lot more exciting than the lack of pace and predictable two-by-two formation in the end result. 

Instead of taking two steps forward and one step back, Team Lotus's feet remain firmly in forward motion.