Partnership between F1 champion Button and former winner Hamilton set to ignite tensions.
|Chandhok reviews his new car in Spain this week [EPA]
Karun Chandhok says he is having to manage expectations about his success in India – because even members of his family are ignorant about the sport.
His new Spanish-based Hispania Racing team, formerly Campos Meta, have not even conducted a shakedown test of the Cosworth-powered car after narrowly winning a race just to get it ready for the Bahrain season-opener.
And if India’s smattering of race fans expect the 26-year-old to be the Sachin Tendulkar of F1, the Chennai-born Chandhok is asking them to cool it.
“It’s going to be tough because, while there is a fan following, its not yet a knowledgeable fan following,” he said.
“We’ve done the best we can to try and manage expectations with the people out there.
“A lot of people don’t understand the sport, even within my own family, and what the enormity of the task is when you have to start with a brand new team and no testing.
“They hear the words but it doesn’t actually sink in how difficult it is going to be.”
Speaking in a telephone interview with the Reuters news agency, Chandhok said he had no illusions about what awaits him this weekend when India’s sole Formula One driver makes his debut barely a week after sealing the deal.
“The first weekend’s going to be very tough I think,” Chandhok said on Monday, the day before he flies to Manama.
“Really, if we can finish the race that will be a serious achievement.
“For me personally, it’s going to be more an extended test session really, to just gain as much experience as possible for the team,”
“I think Melbourne (the second race in Australia) might be a case of a bit more of the same, and then hopefully once we get to Malaysia then we can start to make progress in terms of performance.”
“I’ve never ever wanted to do anything else, ever since I was a kid and three or four years old”
Karun Chandhok, Hispania Racing driver
Chandhok, whose father Vicky is a senior figure in Indian motorsport, will join Brazilian Bruno Senna at the team run by ex-Jordan, Midland, Spyker and Force India boss Colin Kolles.
The two drivers were friends and teammates in GP2 when Senna, nephew of the late triple champion Ayrton, finished overall runner-up.
Chandhok, the first Indian F1 driver since Narain Karthikeyan in 2005, expected his debut to be very special.
“I’ve never ever wanted to do anything else, ever since I was a kid and three or four years old,” he said.
“I was there as a huge Alain Prost fan in the late 80s and early 90s, and then I was there with my Michael Schumacher hat and T-shirt in the 90s hoping Damon Hill would spin off.
“It’s going to be a bit strange to be on the grid with Michael now but I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet,” he added of the seven times world champion, returning with Mercedes at the age of 41.
Chandhok said Hispania Racing (HRT) had a “decent” package of spares for Bahrain but performance was an unknown.
And with a one-year contract (plus options on both sides) announced only last Thursday, he has plenty of work to do.