Chandok fails to get podium finish despite good show

Sentul, Indonesia, Feb 18 (UNI) India's Karun Chandhok was unable to secure a podium finish in the second round of the GP2 Asia Series here with iSport International, despite matching the speed of the leaders throughout the weekend.

The track conditions created some of the most difficult driving conditions in GP2 history, due to a combination of the track surface breaking up and heavy rain.

After a wet free practice, Karun started the feature race in sixth position, and made up one position on the opening lap when he passed Christian Bakkerud (Super Nova).

The 24-year-old from Chennai, who is backed by Red Bull, JK Tyre, Amaron and ICSA Logistics, then struck his first adversity of the weekend, as the safety car came out to allow crashed cars to be recovered.

However, the notification on the pitwall monitors did not appear, so when Karun opted to make his mandatory pitstop at the earliest opportunity, the iSport team wasn't prepared to receive him.

''The first they knew I was coming in was when I appeared in the pitlane,'' said Karun. ''It wasn't their fault that the information wasn't on the screen when it should have been but it was really unfortunate for us as it made a mess of the strategy.'' The slow pitstop dropped Karun to 17th, but at the restart he was quickly working his way back to the front.

''I made five places in two laps,'' said Karun of his progress, but his race would end soon after. As he tried to pass Adrian Valles (FMS), who would go on to finish second, two other cars were also in close proximity at Turn 3 and slowed unexpectedly.

''They braked ridiculously early, and it caught me out,'' said Karun. ''I had a choice of picking one of three cars to hit, or spinning to avoid them. As soon as you get off-line and lock-up here, you spin anyway. I got stuck in the gravel, and that was it.'' His exit meant he would start the sprint race from near the back of the grid, in 18th position, but once again Karun was on the charge. He overtook six cars in the opening stages of a race plagued by crashes and safety cars, and got up to ninth place when Michael Herck (FMS) took him off the track. He would recover to finish 13th.

''It was a terribly frustrating weekend,'' said Karun, who is now sixth in the championship. ''I had front-running pace again, just like in Dubai where I finished on the podium, but it was running in the slower traffic that really cost me points here in both races. If they hadn't messed me about, I'm sure I would have scored good points again.'' The series now moves on rejoin the Formula 1 World Championship in Sepang in Malaysia on March 22-23.

''After all the problems we've had here with the track surface breaking up here I can't wait to get to Malaysia, where the circuit is more normal. I really enjoy the circuit and if we can maintain the pace we currently have, I'm sure I can have a great weekend there.'' Karun said.

The Indian driver now heads to Europe for six days of testing with the all new 2008 GP2 car in preparation for the GP2 series.

Looking ahead, Karun said,''It's hard work for all the teams and drivers to be shuttling between Europe and Asia but these six test days are going to be very important to determine who gets the new car setup right and who doesn't. I have already got a good relationship with Bruno (Senna) and the engineers in the team and I'm really looking forward to working on the new car.'' UNI XC AB GC2007

Story first published: Monday, February 18, 2008, 20:35 [IST]
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