Vijay Mallya and Bernie Ecclestone on Thursday indicated they do not believe Karun Chandhok is a first-class formula one driver.
In a joint interview published by F1’s official website, the pair admitted the desire to see a top Indian driver on the grid.
Mallya, the Indian billionaire owner and boss of the Force India team, currently fields a German-Italian driver combination, with Scot Paul di Resta as the Friday test driver.
Asked if it is important to eventually have an Indian at the wheel, he answered: “It is very important. I would love it. I’m not a fool and can see the enormous publicity potential which would come from it.
“The downside at the moment is that there is not one Indian pilot who has the potential to battle the best on the track,” added Mallya.
26-year-old Chennai-born Chandhok debuted in 2010 for the struggling new Spanish team HRT, and on Thursday he toured the site of next year’s F1 race in Delhi.
The Indian GP project is strongly backed by Ecclestone, who is openly pushing to tap the impressive new markets like India’s.
But although Chandhok was strongly supported by family friend Ecclestone for the seat, the F1 chief executive also seemed to indicate that an Indian is not yet ready to be on the pace.
And the 79-year-old said a struggling Indian at Force India “would be extremely negative”.
“In this case Vijay would have achieved the exact opposite of what he wanted to. To choose an Indian driver who just runs after all the others is no use to anybody. It would be counterproductive,” added the Briton.