CHENNAI: Ask Karun Chandhok what he misses about Chennai and a long list of grievances comes pouring out. His dog, cycling to Mahabalipuram every now and then, the food. Of course, one would expect that having been on the road for the better part of 10 years or more, Karun would have gotten used to this by now.
This year in particular seems to be longer than the rest. “I hope I’ll still have a wife by the end of this year,” jokes the 32-year-old — one of only two Indians to have driven in Formula One. The start of the year saw Karun return to Formula One albeit as a commentator, wielding the microphone for Channel Four. That meant that he had to criss-cross the world with the F1 circus — every week in a different city. And then came the deal with F1 team Williams as the official driver for their heritage division.
His first assignment for Williams will see him appear at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Sussex later this week. Then comes the Austrian Grand Prix the weekend after, followed by a flight back to England for the British Grand Prix on July 10. Globetrotting indeed!
Karun already has quite the racing CV — his stints in F1 with HRT & Lotus supplemented by his adventures in 24 Hours of Le Mans and Formula E. And while he may not be a rookie when it comes to broadcasting, there is someone in the family more experienced than he is. Karun’s brother Suhail anchors the Indian Super League and Pro-Kabaddi League.
“Let’s not forget that I did my first anchoring spot a decade before he did,” Karun says. “But we critique each other’s work. Quite often, when I am live on air with the F1 races going on, I get WhatsApp messages from him saying ‘don’t say that, no one cares’ or ‘talk about this more’.”
His role with Williams will see him get involved in even more media work — part of his job is to appear in documentaries detailing the incredible history that some of the team’s cars have.
But lest anybody be fooled by all his media appearances, Karun is quick to stress that his racing career is far from over. “I am only 32, I’ve got a good ten years more to go as a racer,” he says. “This year, I was targeting a return to Le Mans. I had a few offers that I liked but I was priced out of those. But I am at a stage in my career where I do not need to return if I am not going to be competitive. I hope to return to Le Mans next year.”