Jehan Daruvala: Chasing an F1 dream

Jehan Daruvala, who is part of the Red Bull Junior Team, is currently competing for British side Carlin in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. He opens up on his F1 dreams, equation with former teammate and F1 driver Yuki Tsunoda, association with Carlin, the Red Bull programme, and more.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin. FIA Formula 3 European Championship Testing, Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria. 26th March 2018.   -  James Gasperotti

Jehan Daruvala is the new face of Indian motorsport. Last December, the Mumbai-born driver became the first Indian to win a race in the FIA Formula 2 Championship — a stepping stone to F1 for the likes of Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Mick Schumacher — when he came out in front at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Touted to follow Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok as India's third Formula 1 driver, Daruvala, 22, is part of the Red Bull Junior Team. He has also been racing for British side Carlin in F2 the last two seasons, teaming up in 2020 with current F1 driver Yuki Tsunoda, who joined Red Bull's sister team AlphaTauri this year.

Once considered a Force India protege, Daruvala featured for Prema Racing during the inaugural FIA Formula 3 Championship in 2019. He finished third in the drivers' standings as part of the title-winning team.

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After representing the Mumbai Falcons at the F3 Asian Championship earlier in 2021, he currently occupies the ninth spot in the 2021 F2 Drivers' Championship.

Back in India for the nearly two-month-long summer break following the fourth round of the F2 season at Silverstone, Daruvala opened up on his F1 dreams, equation with Japanese star Tsunoda, association with Carlin, which began at the F3 European Championship and Macau Grand Prix in 2017, the Red Bull programme, and more in an interview with Sportstar.

From racing in Formula Renault 2.0 to F3 to F2 now, how has the transition been?

It's been pretty good. You have to adapt to every car as you move up to the higher categories. From Formula Renault to Formula 3, we had a bit more power, but not a lot. The main thing was the downforce in an F3 car, which was super high. After that, I moved to the new spec of the F3 cars, which has a lot more horsepower and similar downforce. So those cars were like five-six seconds faster than the old ones. Formula 2 cars are like bigger Formula 3 cars. They have 750 horsepower (per ton). They are also a bit heavier and faster in general. This step up from F3 to F2 is not as big as it used to be because the cars are closer in terms of speed now.

Having claimed four podiums, what are the positives you've taken out from your F2 career so far?

The positive thing is that when I drive at my best, I perform well. I can fight at the front of the field and win races in a big Championship like Formula 2. So it gives me confidence that I can race and beat the best guys in the world. The key is to do it more consistently, which I want to and believe I can do.

How has the association with Carlin impacted your career?

The people at Carlin are a great bunch of guys, and we get along really well. This year has been decent so far, but not as well as we would have liked it to have gone. The team is looking forward to bouncing back. (After the break) when we go back out on the track in Monza, getting on the podium or winning the race will be the priority. So we're looking forward to getting back in the car.

What's your equation with former Carlin teammate and current AlphaTauri racer Yuki Tsunoda?

I don't talk too much about F1 with him, but I still talk to him quite a bit. Also, when I go to Red Bull to do my simulator, he's sometimes there doing his sim. So, we catch up for lunch, and we talk in general, not too much stuff about racing. We were teammates for a year. So we know each other pretty well and get along well too.

With superstars like Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo coming out of the Red Bull Junior Programme, do you think you can get there?

I think it's hard to say. The main thing for me is to perform as well as I can in Formula 2, then the rest of it is really out of my control. We have other junior drivers in F2. And you'd never know how the Formula 1 market is. For me to go into F1, a seat also has to open. I have to do well, and then I'll have an opportunity to go up there. So fingers crossed for things to go to plan and my dream of going to F1 coming true. After that, it's all about achieving my results per race.

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What are Red Bull's expectations from you and vice versa?

There's not much conversation between us this season. Red Bull always leaves it to me. We talk more when things get to the business end of the season. They will explain how the season has gone, what they wanted and how things are currently. Results are results, but sometimes with bad luck, things are out of your control, and you can't change a lot. The duration of conversations we have will be more over the next couple of months than in these last few months.

Jehan Daruvala of India and Carlin (6) drives during the Round 4 of the Formula 2 Championship at Silverstone.   -  Getty Images

 

Do former F1 drivers from India -- Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok -- inspire you to reach that stage?

They've been the first two Indians who have made it to Formula 1, so they are role models. But at the end of the day, I also want to set my own targets to reach F1 and have a successful career. The main thing for me is to prove myself in Formula 2, put my name out there and do my best. Hopefully, all the hard work pays off, and I go to F1.

Can you give a gist about your time with Mumbai Falcons at F3 Asian Championship?

It was super cool because the championship was very competitive. It was the first time we had an all-Indian team (which also included Kush Maini) in a big competition. The season went pretty well. I won quite a few races, had a few pole positions and finished third in the championship. It was a successful campaign, which gave me something to do in my offseason before I commenced my F2 preparations.

Where do you see yourself three years from now?

Hopefully, in Formula 1. Apart from that, I don't know. That's my ultimate target.

Watch Jehan Daruvala in action at the FIA Formula 2 Championship on Eurosport in India.