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Jehan Daruvala had an impressive 2019 F3 season in which a couple of races and finished in the third overall in the driver’s championship. The 21-year-old will race in F2 for Carlin in the 2020 season. He is also part of Red Bull’s junior team. Our Ed Sirish Chandran has a candid chat with the young lad to find out more about his F2 aspirations
Sirish Chandran: How long was this announcement in the making?
Jehan Daruvala: I was already in discussion with them since the end of last year, but I had my knee injury so I wasn’t sure how I will recover. Since my recovery went well so I got back in the discussion. It was officially announced today but I have known about it since a past few days.
SC: Was this Red Bull approaching you or did you go and approach them, how does it work?
JD: It was quite mutual; obviously I am racing for Carlin. They told me that Helmut [Marko, current advisor to Red Bull Racing F1] was impressed so and we would like to have a meeting with us. That is how it came about. We met each other and then we had a mutual agreement and obviously I said that it would be a big thing for me that they would like to have me on the program. Basically it went about like that.
SC: How long is this program for, is this for the current year or is it like a long term contract?
JD: I can’t really disclose any contract details, it’s confidential so. Actually I am not allowed to say anything on that side.
SC: So as for now it is just for this year?
JD: I think, it should be just for this year so it depends on my performance.
SC: What does this entail, so you are part of the Red Bull Racing team also, so you get some see time in the Red Bull F1 cars?
JD: Nothing is confirmed, but I will be in the sim before my races but that is mainly Formula 2. Things will come about depending on my results, there is no say. It’s the same for all the other Red Bull people, so nothing is confirmed.
SC: Are you connected with the Formula 1 team in any way?
JD: It’s the Formula 1 junior team, so I will be there around during the races but don’t know for sure yet.
SC: This is which Formula 1 team, is this Red Bull Racing or Alpha Tauri or both together?
JD: Its Red Bull Racing.
SC: It got nothing to do with Alpha Tauri?
JD: Alpha Tauri is part of Red Bull Racing, so with both of them.
SC: Apart from F2, are you going to be doing any other races this year?
SC: Have you tested the F2 car?
JD: In the past, I have driven the old F2 car but I have not driven any new F2 car
SC: When does the season start?
JD: Mid-march in Bahrain.
SC: How big is the step up to F2 from what you drove last year?
JD: It’s in terms of speed and downforce it is a tiny bit, but not like massive. But mainly the tires are more difficult to manage, so that is going to be a big learning. In the days of pre-season testing that will be quite important. Also we have the new 18-inch rims for everyone, so that will be a important for the drivers and the teams.
SC: Have you been doing any special training in the off-season for this coming season?
JD: Firstly I will try and recover from my own leg. Secondly I have been in the simulator and going through a lot of data and stuff, but not too much you can do apart from that and how the tires work. But until you drive you don’t really know how it’s going to be.
SC: What happened to your knee?
JD: I was going for training for football with my friends, so I tore my ligament and had to get an operation for that.
SC: How long back was that?
JD: In October.
SC: Just talk me through your last season.
JD: I think it was a pretty good season on a whole. Qualifiers was the best - out of the 30 cars I was the top qualifier on average over the season. And it went pretty well and at the end of the year I was a bit unlucky, I had DRS failure at Monza and then the issues I had in Sochi. All in all, it was a very good season and I learned a lot and I was in a top team and I was able to prove to the people from the outside. At the end of the day, I finished third in the championship and I deserved to come second because I was fighting for the championship going in the last race, but things did not go my way on the last weekend.
SC: Your current teammate in the F2 with Carlin, have you raced against him in the past, what is he like?
JD: I don’t know him personally, but he races well.
SC: Anything else that you have planned for the year in terms of your training and your driver development?
JD: I will be doing some simulator stuff with Red Bull. But to be honest, the season is quite packed. Once you start we have races every one or two weekends, so there is not too much time in between. There is more learning from the mistakes, things you did well and then preparing for the week after.
SC: For your career, how important is this Red Bull association, how big is it for you?
JD: For me, it’s important as it will present the opportunity for me to go to Formula 1, so that is up to me to perform, do well and just try my best and get the results.
SC: Your target is still Formula 1 right?
SC: Have you set a time frame for that?
JD: Not really. I think ideally I would go in one year - have a good F2 season and go, but it depends on how things go. You can never really predict things in this world.
SC: What is your target for F2 this year?
JD: I want to finish in the top three in the championship. But like I said it depends how comfortable I feel in the car, how well the car performs, it depends on various things. I just want to be competitive like last year and see how things pan out.
Jehan Daruvala had an extremely successful season in the F3 championship, racing with the Prima Racing team. A dominant performance through the season saw him remain in second place for most of the season, behind his Prima teammate Robert Schwartzman. He had superb performances in qualifying and even managed to win races in Barcelona and France, and finishing on the podium in Austria, Great Britain, Italy and Belgium.
He was on the verge of finishing second in the season’s championship standings, but luck wasn’t on his side in the last round in Russia. The 21-year-old Prema Racing driver showed his consistency in the first race of the weekend, starting second on the grid and finishing the race at a respectable fifth position. But in the second race, his car was unable to start on the formation lap. Jehan was due to start fourth on the grid, but was forced to start from the pit lane. However, he looked very determined thereafter, steadily working his way up the grid, overtaking a car per lap, on an average. While attempting to recover from the position he lost earlier, Jehan pushed too hard and went off the track, earning a five-second penalty.
Midway through the Russian Grand Prix, Jehan was racing at the 20th position, after which he managed to climb eight positions, reaching 12th. Even though his tyres were worn out, he went past three more cars, eventually finishing ninth on the track. Estonian racer Juri Vips won the race, but Jehan was classified fifteenth due to the five-second penalty. His Prema Racing teammate Marcus Armstrong from New Zealand finished second. Marcus’ fastest lap and a second-place finish allowed him to get ahead of Jehan by a single point in the driver’s rankings.
Nevertheless, his consistent performances through the season impressed the Red Bull team and they have seen it fit to sign him on to their junior drivers programme. This is a huge step for Jehan’s career towards a seat in Formula 1.