India’s motorsport community has waited long for its next top-flight driver. Finally, there are promising signs: this weekend, Jehan Daruvala will take another crucial step on the ladder to Formula One when he makes his Formula 2 debut at the Austrian GP.
The 21-year-old, who was identified by the Sahara Force India team for its young driver programme, got a boost this year when he was signed by F1 giant Red Bull Racing for its prestigious junior driver programme.
In pre-season testing in Bahrain, Daruvala, driving for Carlin Racing, topped the timesheets twice and showed consistent long-run pace before the coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of the season.
“This is not an ideal situation because we were not even sure whether the season would start. So I am as prepared as one could be but it is the same for everyone,” Daruvala told The Hindu.
He finished third in the F3 championships last year and was in the title hunt until the last race, a performance which helped him land the Red Bull opportunity.
“It is quite a nice position to be in because it is not easy to be a part of it,” said Daruvala, asked about the pressure at Red Bull, known for its ruthlessness in chopping drivers. “So I am just going to focus on getting the best result and hopefully realise my eventual dream of getting to F1.”
Daruvala’s mentor Rayomand Banajee said, “Being part of Red Bull brings additional pressure but Jehan is unfazed by external pressures. It was crucial to get this deal especially after the Force India door closed and this is an even better validation of his credentials.”
Daruvala spent two and half months at home in Mumbai before leaving for the U.K. in May to be prepared for the eventuality of the season starting in Europe. “I took the right call in coming back early and have been able to practise at both the Red Bull and Carlin simulators. It has helped and I was able to do a test with an F3 car in Silverstone just to get back in the groove,” he said.