At the centre of the action was Gascoyne, the design genius who had begun in F1 at McLaren, helped Jordan win races, aided Renault on its way to championships before moving over to Toyota’s ultimately unsuccessful gargantuan grand prix effort. He was now running the show at Team Lotus, trying to push it up F1’s slippery slope.
“Mike Gascoyne had his sort of favourite people around him,” Chandhok says. “He’s a very powerful character and was quite a force of nature in that team. It was very much the ‘Mike Show’ – when he said something, everyone just bowed their heads. I almost got the impression Tony was kind of afraid of him almost – he would just sort of defer to anything Mike said really, which was a little bit odd.
“I got on with him personally but not professionally. I don’t think he really respected me.”
If things got off on the wrong foot between Chandhok and Gascoyne, any chance of improving relations through on-track progress was stymied by the elements and then some.
“First of all I was supposed to test the car in Jerez, then Mike called me the night before and said, ‘Sorry, I need to put the Angolan guy – Ricardo Teixeira – in the car.
“Mike was trying to do some deal of Angola with [sponsor] Sonongal, but the money never arrived, the whole thing was just a mess.”
Still, Chandhok had his FP1 sessions to look forward to – first up was the season opener in Australia. He was raring to go, but his debut Lotus outing didn’t last very long.
“I hadn’t driven the car by the time we got to Melbourne, I’d never tried the Pirelli tires,” he says. “And then I shunted it, which was my own mistake.”
Coming out of Turn 3 on a cold Albert Park track well outside the Pirelli operating window, a slight application of the throttle sent Chandhok straight in the barriers. His debut with Lotus had lasted barely three corners.
“From that point onwards, I always felt like I was being treated as a bit of a spare part by the management,” he says in resignation.
Trying to make up off-track for his on-track transgression, Chandhok headed into the Hingham base, but felt he might as well have been part of a rival team.
“I made an effort to go to the factory and speak to the engineers, but nobody really wanted to talk me,” says Chandhok. “Mike put this sort of barrier up, he didn’t really want to engage with me.”
Matters weren’t helped by further difficulties in the precious little track the Chennai native was afforded.