Race winner Jehan Daruvala of India and Carlin celebrates on the podium during the Round 12:Sakhir Sprint Race of the Formula 2 Championship at Bahrain International Circuit.(Getty Images)
At the end of an extremely tough season, Jehan Daruvala delivered his best on Sunday, winning the 34-lap sprint race in Sakhir, Bahrain. The 22-year-old became the first Indian to win in Formula 2, the main feeder series for Formula 1.
The Carlin driver had a difficult first half of the season, scoring points in only three of the 14 races. His performances improved significantly as he finished in points in eight out of 10 races after that, with two podiums.
The Mumbai driver analyses his season and discusses his future here.
Finally a win in F2, that too fighting against Mick Schumacher (crowned champion) and overtaking pole-sitter Dan Ticktum?
It was a good race. The start was quite good, similar to Ticktum. Mick (starting third) got a better one than both of us. I came out of Turn 1 third and put pressure on Mick. He locked up (wheels), so I could get past him. The previous day we had analysed that there’s no point going too hard at the start; it’s a 34-lap race so let’s build into it. I went about at my pace. Things started to flow and I got into a good rhythm with the tyres and slowly got the gap back down to Dan. At that point I thought I could go for the lead and pull away but fighting him for 2-3 laps at the time was not great because it closed up the bunch back altogether. It was better to stay behind him so that we both just pull away and I can get him later on in the race. It went according to plan. I wanted to overtake him with 8-10 laps to go so that so I can pull a small buffer and it happened. I overtook him into the last corner and defended well. After that I pushed really hard for two laps to break the DRS (drag-reduction system). After I was out of DRS, I just maintained the pace and gap, didn’t go too hard, making sure everything is in the right frame.
How does it feel to get the monkey off the back?
Feels very good; it was a tough season due to various reasons. I was after an engine change. (Since then) things have been a lot better…finishing the championship with a win means a lot. Hearing the national anthem on the podium was a really proud moment for me, also for everyone back in India. It gives me the momentum to carry on into testing and into next year.
Why did you want an engine change?
Normally, if the engine is fine we just run one (in a season). I kept complaining (to Carlin) that I am down compared to my teammate (Yuki Tsunoda) and it needs to be changed. It was not a small difference, was quite large at one point. We finally got it changed for the sprint race in Monza. Since then things have been getting better, more competitive and I was almost back to where I should be—at the front end of the grid.
Didn’t your team realise the problem?
It is not the team’s fault. I was just down on power and (if) the organisers think it is a big difference, only then they would change it. After a period of time it was quite apparent (the difference). It just seemed to lose horsepower and got worse and worse.
Is that why you struggled in the first half of the season?
A little bit, but in Spa and Monza it was a big factor. I could have been on pole in both those rounds. I was almost half a second down in Spa to my teammate, the same in Monza. That is a factor, but in the first half I had bad starts too. I worked really hard, and after getting a new engine my starts have been getting better; everything has gone in the right flow and momentum. I learnt a lot, for next year I will build on whatever I have done in the second half.
Your plans for the future? Will you stay with Carlin and continue to be part of the Red Bull Junior Team?
I can’t disclose much information, but I will try in F2 for a very good team, that’s all I can say. The win has given me confidence. I always believed in me but to get the monkey off my back feels good. I should be able to fight for the top-3, if not for the title (next year).
What will you do during the off season?
The three-day test begins in Bahrain on Tuesday. After that I’ll fly back to Mumbai. I have not been home for seven months. I have to quarantine when I get back. I’ll spend time with friends and family, just wind down, keep fit, keep training, chill out and not think about racing. Next year is going to be a long season.
When will we see you in F1?
Hopefully, this time next year I’ll have a shot for a seat in F1.