Jehan Daruvala, in his rookie season at the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, is already making waves. On Friday, the 18-year-old product of Force India Academy, became the first Indian to take pole in the F3 European series, securing the top spot on the starting grid for Race 1 of the second round of the championship in Monza, Italy. However, he was unable to translate that to a race victory, and finished the hard-fought race on Saturday in second place, behind his Carlin Racing teammate Lando Norris of the UK.
The qualifying sessions for Race 2 and 3 of the weekend will be held late on Saturday, with the races scheduled for Sunday.
Daruvala took pole during the qualifying session for Race 1 at the famed Monza Grand Prix circuit in thrilling fashion. The Carlin Racing driver was on his hot lap when curtains fell on the qualifying session with British racer Callum Illot (Prema Powerteam) in the lead.
Jehan Daruvala ended the session with a flying lap of 1 minute, 44.105 seconds around the 5.793-km track to pip Illot by three-hundredths of a second. In fact, the Indian’s two teammates -- British drivers Lando Norris and Jake Dennis -- beat Illot’s time too to complete a top 3 sweep for Carlin.
Daruwala is confident of doing well in all the three races of the weekend as he feels the Monza track layout suits his driving style and he has fond memories from his previous outings there.
“I like this track a lot. This is where I had my first pole in the Formula Renault,” he said. “The car felt good and we made a few changes after practice which worked well. Importantly, I got a good slipstream and also ensured that I took no risks, once I saw I had a good time on my last lap.”
The Formula journey
Daruvala’s feat came over 16 years after Narain Karthikeyan’s pole during the 2000 Macau GP in the British F3 Championship, which heralded the pioneering Indian’s arrival onto the international stage.
And a few in the Indian motorsport fraternity have already drawn parallels between Daruvala’s and Karthikeyan’s careers, implying that the youngster is Formula One material. That’s a long way off though and can only happen if the talented youngster comes up the formula racing proving grounds and not fall by the wayside like many other Indians did due to lack of sponsor backing.
Formula 3 is just one of the series a driver has to go through before graduating to the big league. Of course, the really talented (and lucky) ones, who has the right mix of talent, sponsor backing and family lineage, like Max Verstappen, have made direct jumps to F1 from F3.
Daruwala has made the right moves so far -- from karting to Formula Renault and now F3 European circuit.
Pole is just a start
His rookie year in F3 has been steady, so far. In the opening round -- at Silverstone in the UK -- he scored 16 points from the three races and was placed eighth in the championship and third among rookies.
A pole position in the second round of his debut season is a good start, no doubt. But translating that to a race win was important too, though a second place finish is commendable. He should now look to follow it up with good finishes through the season.
He has many laps and many miles to go, literally.
The next two to three years would be crucial for the Indian. He should get good results under his belt, get noticed and find backers, and look to graduate up the Formula racing pecking order.
If the critical window is missed, he could end up like the rest -- with stagnated careers and stories of what could have been.