It was in the pre-season test at Bahrain back in March that Mumbai’s 22-year-old Jehan Daruvala had set an impressive timing of 1m, 41.260 – driving the F2 car for the first time that week. He returned to his favourite haunt in the penultimate round of the rookie season, picking his first podium finish in his at the Bahrain Grand Prix support race on Saturday.
The Carlin racer started 8th, and revved up to 3rd for his maiden podium, staving off the challenge of championship leader Mick Schumacher in the feature race, before exiting the sprint on Sunday without making much headway.
However, it has been a decent freshman year for India’s only racer on the F2 circuit, after scoring his first points at Hungary, finishing 5th in Russia in the feature race and a fighting 4th in the sprint race at Silverstone.
In an email interview with The Indian Express after his pre-season testing blitz run at Bahrain, Jehan had spoken of life before F2, the transition from F3, starting out in the sport in Mumbai and a karting pile-up from his younger days, memories of which leave him in splits.
How does it feel to follow-though in the footsteps of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandok?
Narain and Karun did a great job in putting India on the Formula 1 map. It is never easy getting to F1 and reaching there is a milestone in itself. I have been fortunate to have had the right opportunities at the right time and hope to soon be able to compete at the pinnacle of motorsport.
You must’ve known teammate Tsunoda since you were both very little. What is your earliest memory of him?
No (laughing), in fact I met Tsunoda in Bahrain for the first time. We got along very well from our first meeting and I look forward to both of us pushing each other in 2020 and learning along the way.
What’s the one thing rookies like you carry forward from F3 into F2?
Experienced drivers in F2 usually have an advantage over rookies because the cars are much faster, heavier, have carbon brakes, etc, but the biggest advantage comes from the experience of Pirelli tyres. However, there is a general feeling that the rookies coming into F2 this year are competitive as the F3 field of 30 drivers was very strong last year and four of the top five drivers, including myself, have moved to F2 this year. So we all have a lot of confidence from last year and believe that we will do well in F2.
Tell me about growing up in that old-world charm of Dadar Parsi Colony in Mumbai and getting into car racing.
I don’t see the co-relation between being a Parsi and car racing as they have nothing to do with each other and thus it doesn’t help in any way.
Racing requires you to spend a lot of time outside India. In fact, I have been spending more time in Europe than in India since I was 12. So it is very important to me that I have time to spend with family and friends when I am back home.
Tell me three things about the Red Bull gig that were fascinating before you actually took off in the car.
I’m generally not a very expressive person by nature but it felt nice seeing the Red Bull livery on my car and overalls. I was excited to start the season.
Everyone wants to know when you will race in F1 and your answer will be “hopefully soon.” But realistically, when do you think? And what stars need to align?
Being a part of the Red Bull junior programme gives you an excellent opportunity to get to F1. If you are competitive as a Red Bull junior, a promotion to an F1 seat is possible as it has happened in the past with (Sebastian) Vettel, Max (Verstappen), etc. Personally, the 2020 F2 season is very important for me. I would ideally plan a 2-year program in F2, but hope that I have a strong first season so I could have the opportunity to make the jump earlier.
What’s the fastest you’ve gone on an Indian road? Tell me about your best experience on any vehicle – tricycle upwards in India.
Most racing drivers, including myself, tend to leave our racing for the track and give a lot of importance to safety on the roads. I tend to enjoy mountain biking in the UK as it’s quite intense and exciting.
What does racing mean to you?
Racing is my passion since I can remember. So being competitive on a race track with some of the best drivers in the world gives me a pleasure that is difficult to put in words. The excitement as the lights go out, acceleration of the cars, cornering speeds, G force, racing in the wet with low / no visibility, etc gives me an adrenaline rush like no other.
You had the fastest lap in F2 at the start of the testing season in Bahrain. What was that like?
As much as I liked seeing my name at the top of the time sheets in Bahrain, I do know that during testing, all teams would have been doing different things so it may not be an accurate indication. It was nice, however, to know that I was competitive right through the three days of testing. I feel that I have adapted well to the F2 car and the new 18-inch Pirelli tyres.
Funniest memory from karting?
There is a photograph of my go-kart parked on top of Leonardo Lorandi in Lignano. We must have been about 30+ go-karts heading for the 2nd corner and suddenly in all the commotion, I find myself atop Leonardo who was stuck in his go-kart below me. Because of that incident, a lot of friends in the paddock still tease me about my fantastic parking skills.
What do you miss most about F3?
Every time I move up a series, the cars get faster and more exciting and hence I don’t really miss the previous series too much. What I will miss is that in F3, I had two teammates and hence, there was a lot more data to analyse, learn and improve my skills as a driver.
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