From: The New Indian Express, 18 May 2017

Wheels to Formula 1?

CHENNAI: They say speed thrills, and in some cases, speed pays your bills too…of course, you’d have to be extremely talented and have a knack for physics for the latter! India has a proud history in motorsports — despite the fact that the same cannot be said for bigger events like Formula One and perhaps even NASCAR.

And Chennai has been a big part of that tradition, churning out driver after driver, some of whom have gone on to achieve bigger things than others. Such has been the city’s contribution to racing in India that the only two drivers from the nation to ever make it behind the wheels in an F1 race are Chennaiites: Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok. And the latest addition to this conveyor belt of talent is Mahaveer Raghunathan.

The 18-year-old, who has been scorching the tracks of the Auto GP and Boss GP series (both held across Europe), is hoping to follow the footsteps of his famous predecessors. What’s impressive is that Mahaveer started racing only six years ago! “I started with karting when I was 12. It wasn’t a conscious effort to be competitive; but after two years in karting, I moved up to Asia Max (Malaysia). My first win came in Amaron Karting. As I made my way up to JK-BMW to MRF 1.6 to Formula 4 to the European F3 Championship, I realised I had it in me to make it big,” he told City Express.

But with every aspiring career in motorsports comes the caveat of funding. However, Mahaveer has been lucky in this regard. “My family supported my racing expenses until I got my first sponsors in Coloni Motor Sports for whom I’ve done simulator testing in Italy as well. They have helped advance my career. It’s always nice to be associated with an Italian team as they are so passionate about racing,” he noted.

The Mylapore lad is ultimately aiming to make it into F1, as expected, but that’s a big challenge. A driver has two routes into the ultimate level in racing: the Auto GP or GP2. Mahaveer will be testing a GP2 car at Abu Dhabi, and then he’ll take a decision on whether to tread into GP2 or Auto GP. It is well known that around 48.5% of F1 drivers have GP2 experience.

In GP2, one has to race for at least 2 years, which means that expenses add up to $5 million. Considering Mahaveer is from a middle-class background, it’s no doubt a huge investment. But Mahaveer, who has experience of driving on F1 tracks, is looking forward to the challenge. “I’ve secured an FIA A license, which allows me to compete in the GP2 championship. It’s time for me to prove my worth with GP2 machines on F1 circuits. I’ll be working with the UK-based Carlin Motorsport and Dutch team MP Motorsport for the GP2 testing, and if things go well, I’ll be one step closer to my dream of racing in Formula One,” he grinned.