If I can finish in the top 4, it will be a good result: Jehan Daruvala

  • India’s young F2 driver Jehan Daruvala is quietly confident heading to next weekend’s race in Sochi, Russia after winning the Sprint Race 2 at Monza in the Sept 10-12 weekend.
Jehan Daruvala.( James Gasperotti) PREMIUM
Jehan Daruvala.( James Gasperotti)
Updated on Sep 23, 2021 12:39 PM IST
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Jehan Daruvala was brimming with optimism after finishing second in the Bahrain Formula 2 season opener in March. It felt as if the 22-year-old had never left the circuit, maintaining the winning momentum having clinched the final race of 2020 on the same track. After such a start, any racer would dream of fighting for the championship, especially after finishing only 12th in his rookie F2 season.

The Carlin driver’s season though didn’t evolve as he’d have liked with only one podium since—third place in Baku. That is until September 11 in Monza, Italy when the Tifosi heard the Indian national anthem and watched Daruvala spray champagne on the top step of the podium after winning Sprint Race 2.

Jehan Daruvala was brimming with optimism after finishing second in the Bahrain Formula 2 season opener in March. It felt as if the 22-year-old had never left the circuit, maintaining the winning momentum having clinched the final race of 2020 on the same track. After such a start, any racer would dream of fighting for the championship, especially after finishing only 12th in his rookie F2 season.

The Carlin driver’s season though didn’t evolve as he’d have liked with only one podium since—third place in Baku. That is until September 11 in Monza, Italy when the Tifosi heard the Indian national anthem and watched Daruvala spray champagne on the top step of the podium after winning Sprint Race 2.

Seventh in the standings with 81 points, the Red Bull junior driver from Dadar Parsi Colony in Mumbai has regained confidence. He is aiming for podiums and at least a top-4 finish overall in the feeder championship for F1. He spoke about his season and beyond in a virtual interview from London.

Excerpts:

Finally a win, first this year and second in F2?

I wanted to get back on track in Monza after a long break (two months) and to start off with qualifying on the front row (second) was a big improvement. It makes the whole weekend easier. In Sprint Race 2, I started on the front row, led off the line and from there pretty much controlled the pace. It felt really good to win; it felt a long time coming. Then to hear the national anthem on a podium like Monza… amazing.

Winning at a track like Monza with so much history, must be special.

(It’s) especially good. Also because of the type of circuit. It is always difficult to pull away as the leader and win because of the amount of slipstream that is there in Monza. So to have that kind of pace, to pack up the pace from qualifying in all the races really gave me a lot of confidence to carry into Sochi (race next weekend). It wasn’t like qualifying was a fluke. To be on the front row, it showed we were strong, had a strong package and that helped me win the race.

Bahrain, Baku, now Monza. You tend to do well on fast tracks with long straights.

It does suit me. I am normally quite good on tracks with big braking zones. Also, the strong points of our car are top speed and braking. The combination also helps. In Silverstone I just feel I underperformed. The car was good. (Teammate) Dan (Ticktum) was on the podium. So the strength of the car really shows at tracks like Monza. I am sure we will be really quick in Sochi again.

Seventh overall after five rounds with three to go, how would you sum up your season?

Definitely not the season I would have liked to have so far in terms of scoring points. It has had its ups and downs. I started off pretty strong in Bahrain then had a tough Monaco, had a decent Baku and a tough Silverstone. It is also difficult, when you have a couple of bad weekends in an eight-round championship, to really come back and fight for the title. Seventh place is not my goal or my ideal standing but in a competitive grid like this if I can finish in the top 4-5 after the season I have had so far, it will be a good result.

Sochi also has a very long pit straight followed by the unknown Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.

We will do all the preps for Sochi and then we have another two months off so we have time to learn the Jeddah track as much as possible on the simulator and prepare for Jeddah and Abu Dhabi separately. My sole focus is on Sochi now. Hopefully, it can be a repeat of another good weekend.

Has 2021 been better than 2020? You are better placed and have more points.

I definitely have taken a massive step forward but I still set my expectations really high, so I wouldn’t say I am happy. To be able to fight at the front like I did in Monza is really what makes me happy. The goal for every weekend is to turn up and just give it your best. When you’re fighting guys who are at the front it really makes you feel good, mentally you feel at a better place.

How do you compare last year’s teammate Yuki Tsunoda (now in F1) to current colleague Dan Ticktum?

I get along with Dan perfectly well. We have been teammates in go-karting and have lot of respect for each other. He is a really quick driver. We have two drivers who are competitive and can really push the team forward, but there is no rivalry as such. Yuki jumped the ranks really quickly, from F3 to F1. He definitely has the potential to do well and win. Some people take more time than others. He has already signed his contract (with AlphaTauri) for next season. I am sure he will take a step up and move forward.

What about your future? Is an F1 test around the corner?

Right now there’s nothing we spoke about. More concrete decisions about the future will be made after Sochi because it will be such big break. It will be 2-3 weeks after Sochi; we will know more about what I will be doing at the end of the year or next year. For next year, it just depends on how Sochi goes. I will have a conversation with Dr. (Helmut) Marko (Red Bull junior programme head) in the next few weeks to see what future holds. The driver market is pretty much closed for Formula 1. There are a few decisions to be made but I am not so sure right now.

Does F2 being held as a support race to F1 help?

We are not in the F1 paddock. We come to the pit lane before our races. With Covid right now no one’s allowed to mix bubbles so you don’t see anyone from the F1 paddock. But when you are on the podium Dr. Marko is there to see you and that does make a difference. Everyone in F1 also watch F2 to see the conditions and everything. That’s good for us.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021