Max Verstappen is the favourite going into the season; Hamilton still capable of delivering top performances: Karun Chandhok

A photograph of Karun Chandhok celebrating. Source( Karun Chandhok FB)

Karun Chandhok interview on 2024 F1 season. Rev exclusive.

If the 2024 Formula One season needed a high-octane surge before the championship begins tonight in the deserts of the Bahrain International Circuit, two men have provided it. First was seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton signing a mega-bucks deal with Ferrari from the 2025 season and ditching Mercedes. For such a thing to happen a year in advance did shock many fans, but that’s the market value of the Briton.

In the last few days, one man who is considered the brains behind Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, has grabbed headlines for his raunchy messages on Whatsapp and emails to his lady colleague. This is typical juicy stuff which British tabloids made a meal of with the most creative headlines.

For the time being, there may be calm in the Red Bull paddock following the “sex test storm” which Horner sent, but the sport has to go on. As expected, champion Max Verstappen grabbed pole in Bahrain, with a timing of 1 min 29.41 seconds, once again proving he is in great shape. Man and machine, both are in sync, and the Horner episode seems to have no bearing on the qualifying, so far.

In an exclusive chat with RevSportz, Karun Chandhok, India’s racing brain, ex Formula One driver and TV analyst opened up on the new F1 season. Karun’s always been a brainy guy and respected for his acumen and analysis.

RevSportz: Karun, your thoughts on the new F1 season. Is Max Verstappen still the hottest guy?

Karun: Yes, I think Max is still the favourite going into the season. I think the way the rules are, it’s still pretty much the same as last year. Both Max and Red Bull are still the favourites. I don’t know if they will have the same advantage. I think both Mercedes and Ferrari should be closer. McLaren also should make progress in the second half of the year. But at this moment, still, Max is the favourite.

Building up to the conclave: 

RevSportz: Do you think after looking at the cars, Red Bull will again dominate the 2024 season?

Karun: I think Red Bull will be the favourites but I don’t think they will dominate in the same way like last year. Last year, Ferrari and Mercedes underperformed in the first part of the year. After the summer break, Ferrari recovered. I think on the whole with Max they (Red Bull) will be the top team but will not dominate this time.

RevSportz: Last season for Hamilton in Mercedes and he knows where he will be in 2025. What or how does it place Mercedes when they know their main driver is here for a last fling? Will Hamilton still showcase his skills?

Karun: Lewis will still be super motivated. He will want to leave Mercedes on a high. In my mind, he is still one of the top three drivers on the grid. I think people will look at recent races in the last few years and say he (Lewis) has lost it. That’s not true. His car has not been good enough. He is definitely still capable of delivering top performances like Verstappen can or (Fernando) Alonso. They are all world champions.

It’s a strange year for Lewis. I think in the second half of the year Mercedes will be selective with Lewis in sharing information on development of the car for 2025 in certain meetings and certain projects on development (of the car). That could all be a little bit tricky for Lewis. I still expect him to be right up there, with George Russell. Between him (Lewis) and Russell, have the best team lineup.

RevSportz: Do you think one can see a more upbeat Ferrari in 2024 given their massive fan base?

Karun: Unlike Mercedes or Red Bull who have completely changed the design and concept of the car from last year, Ferrari’s change has been an evolution rather than a revolution. They just seemed to have taken a baseline and they did well in the last five races of last year. Ferrari needs to make the car more usable in the races. One of their biggest issues was tyre wear last year, they were very hard on it. They have worked on it in the winter break and we will know in the first two races of this season.

RevSportz: The F1 season is really long, 24 races. How harder is it on the drivers?

Karun:  The schedule is extremely demanding. People are going to be on the road for most of the year and hardly spend time with their family and friends. I think the season will be demanding not so much physically but anyone working with the teams, it’s going to be mentally harder for the drivers and others. For anyone working in F1 an earlier start to the season (February) and late finish to the season is so hard.

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