COLUMN – Karun Chandhok: Satisfying weekend in Valencia
The European GP weekend was another positive result for me and a race that I quite enjoyed. I had to work really hard to pull away from my teammate Bruno Senna and then also fight on strategy with the faster Virgin Racing car of Timo Glock and to end the weekend 18th ahead of them was very satisfying.
Watching the replay of the race on Monday, the two clear highlights seemed to be Mark Webber’s accident and the whole safety car story. Mark’s shunt was pretty incredible — I really can’t recall anything so dramatic in a while, maybe Robert’s accident in Montreal in 2007 compares but this was a biggie. I sent Mark a quick e-mail straight away after seeing it and I’m glad to say he replied to say he was alright.
That being the case is a real testimony to the safety standards of a modern F1 car and the work done by the FIA with the crash tests and the safety standards for the chassis. When he landed on his roll hoop, Mark must have still been doing close to 200 kmh. It’s difficult really to say why the accident happened but clearly he didn’t realise how early Heikki would be decelerating into Turn 12.
At last week’s FIA meeting, there was a discussion about potential moveable rear wings which would make a huge difference to straight line speeds and promote overtaking. After seeing the accident on Sunday, I have to say that big speed differences may be good for overtaking but it may not be the safest solution for racing. The addition of Kers may be enough to promote overtaking in the same way as the push to pass system worked brilliantly at the last Indycar race a couple weeks ago.
The other rule that a lot of people asked me about this weekend was the 107 percent rule for 2011. Clearly whoever asked me that question hadn’t really done enough research because apart from a couple races where we’ve had mechanical or other problems, both Bruno and I have been within 107 percent everywhere.
The week leading up the race was a very busy one for us. Valencia was the second home race for the team and so we had a lot of guests and sponsors there at the weekend. During the week, Bruno and I visited Madrid for some promo work that included a visit to the Real Madrid Bernabeu Stadium and the museum.
I’m not a big football fan although I have got a bit into the World Cup but even so, it was hugely impressive looking around the place with such a rich history. We also visited Murcia, the home of the Hispania Group where we were part of a jury for a road safety video competition done by local schools. I’ve been working to promote road safety in India but pushing the idea of “race on the tracks and not on the roads” and it was nice to lend support to the cause in Spain. In fact, Jean Todt sent me a nice e-mail of appreciation last week after seeing the posters for the campaign in India.
On Thursday, we got to have a bit of fun before work started when we went to the Oceanographic in Valencia to play with some dolphins. It was amazing how intelligent they are and the tricks that they could do were really cool although I have to admit I was slightly intimidated by just how sharp their teeth were. Bruno clearly wasn’t and took great pleasure in calling me a wimp every time they opened their mouths.
The weekend on track itself went well for me. The team has opted to put Christian Klein in the car on occasion to use his experience for some additional feedback so I spent the morning just listening in on the radio before getting on with work in the afternoon. We had a few electronic issues in FP2 so I didn’t really get a good feeling for the car but on Friday night my performance engineer Angel Baena did a great job ironing out the problems and we did a good program in FP3 on Saturday morning to get the car more sorted for qualifying.
My lap in quail wasn’t ideal but I was reasonably pleased with the time I did. We knew that we were about six-tenths behind the Virgins and the race would be more about racing each other than them, although as it worked out, I was racing Timo till the end.
I have my “home” race at Silverstone coming up next but before that I’m off to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I’m a real old school F1 fan and I’m really looking forward to going down there to check out the cars and also drive Keke Rosberg’s 1982 Championship winning Williams which will be very special. I’ve never been to the FOS and I’m told it’s a great weekend out for any fans.
Having lived within 5 minutes of Silverstone for the last 8 years, this is very much a home race for me. I have a lot of friends in the area and even was an employee of the circuit from 2002-04, working at the racing school so it will be pretty cool to go there racing in Formula 1 this year. More from me after that.