Jehan Daruvala has been waving the Indian flag quite a few times on many podiums around the world. Jehan is the only Indian competing in his second season in the FIA Formula 2 Championship as a Red Bull Junior driver. He is also the second runner up in the Asia Formula 3 series this year. We catch up with Daruvala after the fourth F2 round at Silverstone to talk about his 2021 campaign so far, what he expects from the remaining four rounds and where he hopes to be in 2022. Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Monaco: First time driving an F2 car on the iconic street circuit. What was it like?
JD: The last time I was in Monaco was in 2016 driving in Formula Renault. It has been five years since I raced there. But driving a Formula 2 car almost felt like I had never been there before. Just the differences in speed were such a surreal experience. The results didn’t go the way I wanted. But just driving around the streets of Monaco, within a few centimetres of walls at that speed, the amount of focus required to race there is one of the best a racing driver can experience.
How do you approach a weekend like Monaco?
JD: With the new format, we don’t get too much practice. After the first 40 minute session, we go straight to qualifying. So the mindset is to get used to the car and the track as fast as we can. But if you do end up crashing, you don’t have the time to get comfortable. All you can do is get as close to the wall as you can and push from there.
You ended 2020 on a high with the win and the podium, followed by another podium in Bahrain this year. What is it about the track that suits you so well?
JD: It’s a combination of me suiting well to the track, and the team [Carlin] being successful there in the past. This year, at least in the last three weekends, there has been zero tyre degradation for the Formula 2 cars with the new compounds compared to last year. It showed in the racing at Silverstone, as there was pretty much zero overtaking. But it wasn’t the case as much in Bahrain. I’m normally good with feeling the tyres and getting the maximum out of them. Since qualifying didn’t go so well in Silverstone, it was hard to achieve the results. If there was more degradation from the tyres, I would have been able to move up ahead.
How has the new 3-race format changed your approach and performance?
JD: I’m not sure if the 3-race format is the best for us [Drivers]. We don’t get as much driving as we would want to. Eight rounds is really not a lot in 12 months. It is different, but it’s the same for everyone. We have to adapt to it. Anything is possible in F2. If the leaders have one or two bad qualifying sessions and you get one good weekend, you can be right back in the fight. The main thing is that the track time is not that great, the previous format was a bit more suited to me.
Four rounds are remaining – Monza, Sochi, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, which one are you most looking forward to?
JD: I’m just looking forward to Monza. After the weekend I’ve had at Silverstone, I just want to get back out there. The racing should be good there and I’m looking forward to getting back on track.
Where do you see yourself racing in 2022?
JD: It is very difficult to pinpoint where I will end up, whether the rest of the season goes to plan or not. To move into F1, you need seats to open up, and currently, AlphaTauri is a realistic opportunity, but I don’t see a seat opening up at the moment. We are three Red Bull Juniors in F2 and right now, our goal is to do the best we can to impress. That’s the most we can do to put pressure on them to put us in a Formula One car. The main thing for me is to impress them in the next four rounds. Apart from that, I don’t really know what my future holds.
Where would you be happy to finish this year’s championship?
JD: One of course wants to win, but we have to be realistic. I believe a top-five finish will be okay, but a top 3 will be great from the position I’m in right now [9th] overall in the championship. My focus is to maximise my chances and get as many points to end up where I want to be.
How does it feel to be nominated for the Arjuna award?
JD: It feels amazing to have just been nominated. It is a massive achievement for me. I’m proud and honoured just to be nominated for the award. I haven’t won it yet, but still one of the best achievements of my career so far.
Eurosport will be broadcasting the entire 2021 FIA Formula 2 Championship season so you can watch Jehan Daruvala representing India in Monza, Sochi, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi this year for the remaining four rounds of the championship.
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