Karun Chandhok is optimistic that the new Hispania Racing Team can score points this year despite its troubled build-up to the Formula 1 season.
The squad was dramatically restructured in late February, with original founder Adrian Campos departing and Colin Kolles being drafted in to run the team by Jose Ramon Carabante, who had taken full control of the company. HRT launched its Dallara-built F1 car in Murcia on Thursday, but has been unable to test before the season opener in Bahrain next weekend.
Although Chandhok admitted that Hispania has to earn its rivals' respect initially, he believes it can be a contender by round five of the championship in Spain – and that points finishes are not out of the question in 2010.
"Our goal early on in the season is to show the world that we are a credible company," Chandhok told the Indian newspaper Deccan Herald. "The focus is to gain some mileage, reliability and experience in the first season.
"We'll probably be off the mark in the first four races but from Catalunya, Spain, we will prove a challenge. You never know, we could also bag some points late in the season."
The 26-year-old Indian said he was relieved to get an F1 break after a luckless GP2 season last year.
"I had a very disappointing 2009 season in GP2 but everyone had already made a note of my potential," said Chandhok, who had been a GP2 race winner in 2007 and 2008 but was only 18th in the '09 standings with Ocean.
"After chasing a [Formula 1] seat for a long time, I finally found a great team to drive with. Colin Kolles has shown a lot of faith in me and it helps to have the backing of someone who has known me for long in a sport like Formula 1."
Chandhok added that he bore no ill feeling towards Force India and its boss Vijay Mallya, even though he had not been offered an F1 seat by his national team.
"He called me and wished me well," Chandhok said of Mallya. "Force India required something else at that point of time and they have now turned into a very good team. I hold nothing against Vijay. I wanted to drive in F1 and it didn't matter to me which team I drove for. My priority is to stay in F1 and give it my best.
"I will consider driving for Force India if an offer does pop up and if they are still on a high, in terms of racing."