Reserve driver role is not a setback to my F1 career: Chandhok

Instead, the Indian is hopeful that he will be able to cash in on the opportunity of staying in the F1 circuit to grow as an F1 driver. Chandhok became only the second Indian after Narain Karthikeyan to race F1 last year when he struck a deal with Hispania but was dropped mid-way by the Spanish outfit.

Today the Indian racing ace announced his deal as a reserve driver with Malaysia based Team Lotus, which also made its F1 debut last year.

"In some ways, one can say that it is a setback to my career as I raced last year. But I am with a better team this year and am looking at more performances. From outside it may seem that I have taken a step backwards but actually being there in the F1 circuit it is like taking two steps forward," Chandhok told PTI from Melbourne. The Chennai lad will do the test duty on Friday in the first practice session of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

"I am very excited to be a part of Team Lotus. It feels really good to be back in the F1 car. It has been some time now. Come Friday I will be back behind the wheels. And it will be important to have a more sensible approach. It will be a great opportunity to grow as a F1 driver," he said.

The 27-year-old Indian admitted that he endured some tough time when he was in talks with various teams but nothing concrete was coming up.

"It was very tough to keep the motivation up. But since December last year, I started getting positive indications from Tony Fernandes (Team Principal) and I became optimistic. In January and February I trained extremely hard. I did about 500 kms of cycling, besides other things. In fact, behind closed doors did a lot of things," he said.

Asked about his talks with Force India, Chandhok preferred not to elaborate. "I don't want to go into why things didn't work out with Force India. In terms of my long-term future I think this is very good. I am not expecting that something great will happen over this weekend or next month or for that matter even the next six months.

"But I feel me and Tony, with who I am great friends, have a good potential to do good things together," he said. Heaping praise on Fernandes, Karun said the team boss is very keen that more Asians come to F1.

"It (Lotus) is a passionate new team. Myself and Tony share a common vision. He is very keen that more and more Asian drivers and teams come into Formula One, which is great."

Chandhok will join Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, third driver Luiz Razia and test drivers Davide Valsecchi and Ricardo Teixeira in Team Lotus.

"It will be all about building confidence both for me as well as the team. For me it will be a great learning experience. There are experienced technical people in the team and I am looking forward to learn a lot."

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