Prior to the 2022 Australian GP, we had the opportunity to sit down with ex-F1 driver and current media personality Karun Chandhok. Below is the transcript of our conversation.
Dillon: Karun, thanks for taking the taking to sit down and have a chat with us, I hope you your weekend has been going well so far.
Karun: Thanks for having me, it’s no problem at all. I’m glad to be back in the paddock for my first race of the season.
Dillon: Great to hear. Let’s start off with the hot topic of late and one thing that many fans have been really excited about is all these DRS games that are being played. People have been talking about it like crazy. And it seems to have divided some people.
Is it good? Is it bad? Should they change any rules? Should they move the DRS line before or after a turn? What do are your thoughts on it?
Karun: I think it needs a little bit of tweaking. I think the one in Saudi the particularly, tricky example, here it’s different because you’ve got two detection points and four zones, obviously, but on the whole I just think it’s part of the tactical nature of modern Grand Prix racing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a purist and I dislike the idea of DRS principally, because I think it’s a less pure form of overtaking, but I’ve also recognized that it’s a necessary evil in F1 in modern Grand Prix racing.
Now the 2022 cars, I think clearly they’re able to follow more closely and it’s more predictable to follow so the racing is better. The slipstream effect is still good. So I think it’s the first step towards removing DRS altogether. But I think they couldn’t have done it for this year. It would have been too big a risk to do the full regulation change and get rid of DRS for this year.
It would have been too risky for them to do. But I think down the line I can see them potentially removing it all together.
Dillon: It’d be interesting to see if they do bring that back [removing DRS]. Speaking on the side of a purist, this is slightly tangential, obviously the budget cap has come in and restrictions have gotten tighter.
A lot of purists argue it should be one or the other. Bring in the budget cap and then sort of open it up and say, well, use the money however you want. Or conversely say, let’s make it really tight, but then the budget cap’s not so important.
Karun: I think that the budget cap in principle is, again a good idea because otherwise costs just spiral and escalate out of control. I’m not a huge fan of the list of exclusions. You’ve got 26 major exclusions on that list, and then if you go into that, there’s various sub ones.
So I think if you’re going to do it, then you’ve got to commit the whole hog and you should’ve just tightened it all up. But the hardest thing I see with a budget cap is how do you police it? I think the teams are taking it very seriously and that they really thinking about what upgrades and what bits they bring and new parts and all that.
They’re really, really thinking about the budget cap when they do all of that planning. In so many ways it’s a self policing mechanism. So I just hope that they’re able to police it in a way that is not giving anyone a cheeky, sneaky advantage. That’s a critical thing. And if they’re able to do that, then good on them.
Dillon: Yeah, fair enough. I suppose there’s a concern that the bigger companies, like a Mercedes for instance, could have more chances to do that kind of stuff than say a smaller operation.
Karun: Well, anybody can, frankly. It’s about how… I think it’s Deloitte are the auditors for it and about how much resource they’re putting into research. It doesn’t matter who you are. Right? You could be Haas or Mercedes, you know, the big or small team. If they had an offshore office, in the Cayman Islands doing and paying for engineering research, how is that gonna work in terms of policing it? I think that’s a critical thing of how well it’s being policed. But so far I have to say that the teams are all taking it very seriously, which is really good.
Dillon: Helmut Marko recently came out and said if we don’t offer Gasly a competitive seat at the end of this year, we risk losing him. Do you see him being a viable option for Red Bull next year? Given that they haven’t really shown a lot of interest in the past few years.
Karun: I think it’s down to on-track performance. Right? Obviously they got Max locked-in and they’ve got a good problem in that they’ve got both Checo and Gasly on contract. And that’s a good problem to have really. We’re only at round three, so we need to see how the season develops. Checo did a super job in Saudi but Gasly has done a great job in recent races too.
So ultimately I think Helmut will do it based on a purely meritocratic process. He will judge them based on their speed and performance on track.
Dillon: So, do you think it’s more dependent on how well Checo does as opposed to how well Gasly does? I mean, what more can he do to change that their mind?
Karun: I think, for yeah, I mean, Checo’s in a better position because he’s in the seat. The incumbent will always be in a better position, but if he carries on delivering, like he delivered in Saudi, then why would they replace him? So it’s in it’s it’s in their own hands, right?
Dillon: It is, yeah. So where do you see Gasly potentially going? What are his options?
Karun: Who knows? Who knows, right? The market… and this is where I’m not a huge fan of people saying, ‘Oh, he could go here, and this and that, yeah’. It’s nonsense because yeah, the day Lewis, Fernando, Sebastian retire; the market just explodes. So there’s no point in trying to predict the unpredictable.
Dillon: Yeah, no, good call. Hot topic being in Australia, Oscar Piastri is on the people’s tongues, and then they want to know what’s going on with him. He’s had a fantastic junior career.
Karun: Yeah, couldn’t have done any more.
Dillon: Exactly. The politics of F1 always play a massive part in the sport. Is there a realistic chance of him going somewhere?
Karun: I hope so. I think it, you know, I’d love to see him in F1. I think he’s extremely talented. I think he races very well. He’s got good race-craft. Obviously I know Mark [Webber] very well and I know Mark’s batting for him and trying to get him something, but it’s tricky.
I just feel bad there aren’t more teams and F1, we need, I wish we had one or two more seats in F1. If we had an 11th or 12th team then, and had a mechanism where the F2 champion every year gets a seat in F1 or something, then it’ll be great. But… it’ll be such a shame if he doesn’t get an opportunity in this paddock because he deserves it.
Dillon: Do you see that barrier to new teams joining, is it the $200 million entry fee that they’ve got to pay out? We hear Audi and Porsche potentially interested, but more in a collaborative sense than starting their own team. What seems to be the barrier?
Karun: At the end of the day, it comes down to money, I guess, isn’t it? You know, the reality is that the 200 million thing is a big barrier for any new team to cross. That’s massive, that is absolutely massive. But I think F1 delivers a lot of value and a lot of upsides for any brand involved.
It’s a question of whether they believe that one-off cost of 200 million justifies… If they’re going to be in the sport, if Audi or Porsche, they’re such huge, VW group is such a huge brand, a huge company with a very deep pockets; if they look at it and say, ‘Okay, you know what, we’re going to be in F1 for 20 years. So we’re willing to invest the 200 upfront’, because you can justify that over a 20 year period. That’s a different thing.
Dillon: Yeah. Do you think it would benefit somebody like McLaren saying, ‘Hey, yeah, let’s try and make this work with Porsche.’?
Karun: Yeah, listen, McLaren are at the moment they’re a customer team of Mercedes and you’re always better off being a works team, always.
So yeah, if they can create a works deal – which makes sense – then for sure it’s the right thing to do.
Dillon: Yeah, for sure. Alright, predictions for this weekend for the championship at large.
Karun: Honestly, for this weekend, I have no idea because between Red Bull and Ferrari. And that’s great. I love, I love coming to a track, even on Saturday morning after FP1 and 2, we still don’t know who’s gonna be on pole. And I love that. I think that’s one of the best things about the current championship. Same as last year. We had no idea whether it was going to be Lewis or Max.
I’d love to see Carlos get a win soon. He’s a top talent and he’s a super guy. I’d love to see him get a win soon. And you know, Checo was unlucky in Saudi really, when they got the safety car there. So it’d be nice to see him get one as well. I think it’s so good for F1 if we can have more than two drivers winning races and in the fight.
So honestly the same for the championship. You know, who knows, right? We get to Barcelona and Mercedes suddenly introduce an update, which just unlocks the potential that they believe that car has; they lock out the front row and all of a sudden they’re right in it. You can’t rule them out. So yeah, I think this is one of the nice things at the moment. So I don’t know – one of those two.
Dillon: Awesome. Thank you very much for your time. I really do appreciate it.
Karun: No, no, that’s fine. No problem. And good luck with everything you’re doing.