In conversation with Jehan Daruvala
By winning the third race of the weekend at Norisring, Jehan Daruvala became the first Indian to win the FIA European F3 championship. Narain Karthikeyan was the last Indian to win on the F3 circuit, 18 years ago; but Karthikeyan had won in the British F3 championship.
We had a chance to catch up with the fast Daruvala and here’s what he had to say:
On his beginnings
Ever since I was akid, I used to watch F1 with my Dad and so wanted to do it professionally. He didn’t think there was much to do in India, but one day while on a flight, he saw an ad in the newspaper where Rayomand Banajee was holding a training camp for young karters. And that time I was underage, but nevertheless Rayo allowed me to drive a few laps around the Powai circuit. At the end of the session, he said you got some talent and that’s howI started off.I did a single test prior to my first race weekend. I finished 5th in my first race after qualifying in the same spot as well.
His first championship
In the first season I had no podiums to my name. It was all a bit new for me and quite frankly I was still learning. However, in my second season, I was a part of the rookie championship in which I didn’t just win races but also went on to win the series.
Importance of Rayo
He has helped me a lot, advising me on what I should do as a racing driver. He is still in touch with me quite a lot. He has helped me come through the ranks. When I was 10, I had no idea about it and he was in the sport for many years so he just said what we should do. And he contributed to my racing and he told me that I was ready to race in EU.
When I was in juniors, they were selecting drivers to be a part of the One In A Billion hunt. I was just 13 then and the age limit was 14. So, I was not eligible but on Sunday I finished my Rotax and to take part in the other race, I went to the town and all the four days I did the fastest laps. That is how I was selected, even though being under-14. They selected 100 and sent us to Goa. The top 3, me, Arjun Maini and Tarun Reddy were selected in the end. And we raced in England for a year.
Force India have been massive help, because ever since I joined, they have been advising me a lot. I have always been in the top teams, whichever championships. Which means, I get the best equipment and the best chances.
On endless travelling
I fly a lot. I fly 3 times a week. Then 1-2 hours drive to the track. Lots of travelling, yes. Since I was 13 I had to make a choice, so I am away from home most of the time. I did go to live alone in a boarding school. I have done everything I have done to go to Europe but I miss my family, so I love coming back to Mumbai.
I mean, obviously you learn a lot when you are younger. Moving up to cars early gave me an opportunity to test a lot. And learn a lot. The age makes a massive difference now, after Max Verstappen all the teams are looking for young drivers.
On stepping up to cars
Initially, when i moved to cars i did struggle. When you sit in the cockpit, the visibility is not great. Took me time to get used to tests. The braking is different. In cars, you use the down-force and hit the pedal hard. That took me time. Even downforce in high speed corners.The learning process, I have still been learning. To get to a decent level, it took me 6-8 days in a car.
Every week starts the same way. On Monday i go to meet my mind coach, 3 hours away.You tell him what you feel, things that you can improve, how do I go faster, if struggling with the start then working on the nerves. Everything is confidential. He sends me a CD to listen to after putting it down on a paper. So to keep me calm. Before going for the weekend, how to do a fast lap in qualifying, so I always visualise it.
I also have a personal trainer who comes with me to the track. I see him in the evening on Monday-Wednesday before flying out on Thursday. I am always working on the fitness. And improving areas on which to work. Because the cars actually aren’t that physical but as I move up categories, I am already working on that. I train for 4-5 days a week for about 1.5-2 hours. cardio is very important for us so I have 10km runs twice and I also play sports. And I get along well with my trainer, so it’s fun.
Tuesdays is simulators. We go through all the procedures just like the race weekend, so I go out and say do 8 laps and then we try to look at the data and then go back out and practice the qualifying. Practice stops, races… So basically visualise the weekend. The tracks are extremely detailed, the bumps the elevations. So it’s quite realistic and helpful.
His ultimate dream
F1 is the the ultimate goal, I am still young so I am not in a rush to go there. I need to keep improving and develop as a driver before I take the step. And i want to be the best i can when I can get there. I have got time on my side I can even take 5 years for that, but obviously 3-4 years would be a realistic time. If I don’t make it to F1, say, I want to be a professional racing driver so i can do all the things where I could earn a living, as I love racing cars and that is my passion.
My parents have been massive support for me, through my entire career. They never put any pressure on me. They just come there to watch and leave it to me and professionals, they never get angry, they are the perfect parents, I can talk to them and even if I have a bad weekend they are always there, to watch me and not get angry.
My advice will be to spend as much time as you can driving. The more you drive, the better you become. And after you think you are ready, you move on to Asia. There is stiff competition there, you know. Then you can work hard and if you win in India, you tend to relax, but only once you go to Europe, you know you have to work a lot harder. There is a lot more testing and everything.I do a lot of work, its difficult, you have to sacrifice a lot. I left my family, since i was 13 and even in school I was studying and then gym no time to go out, things like that. If you want to do something and make it big, you have to give your 100%. I have no regrets.