Interview: Jehan Daruvala on his Formula 2 journey so far

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It’s been a tough first year in Formula 2 (F2) for Jehan Daruvala. Even as his Carlin teammate and fellow Red Bull-backed driver Yuki Tsunoda has found himself fighting for the championship and is in the frame for an F1 move, the 22-year-old from Mumbai has struggled to get in the groove. But he believes the speed is there and he is determined to round off the campaign in style.

Jehan, let’s start by summing up your season.

Like we know, it’s been a pretty tough season so far. From the outside it looks a lot worse than it actually is. The last few rounds, since Spa and Monza I had engine troubles compared to Yuki who was on pole and on the front row. In both those qualifying sessions, around the corners, I was actually quicker than him. So, it was a bit frustrating from my side. For Mugello, I had a new engine, qualified back in the top six, out-qualified Yuki, and the speeds on the straights were quite similar. After that, Sochi was clearly a big step forward. From the start of the weekend, I was quite fast, dominated most of qualifying until right at the end. I’m really happy to be [back] at the front. I felt like my confidence is growing and I’m really looking forward to the next two rounds in Bahrain, one of my favourite tracks.

When you stepped up from F3 to F2 you obviously expected a bit of a challenge. But are you surprised at how tough it’s been? You were a championship contender in F3, right in the mix with guys like Robert Shwartzman who is now a front-runner in F2. Previously you’ve acquitted yourself well as team-mate to Lando Norris.

Honestly, my main thing for half of the season was the start. Every start I went like four or five places backward. So that was not good at all. I had good qualifying sessions, quite a few top sixes, but it never turned into good results because I just went backwards at the start. On the last, say two weekends, all my starts have been quite good and consistent. I’m now actually quite confident that if I qualify well, I can finish at the front after having a good start.

How have the tyres been? In F2, you see a lot of strategic variation and degradation.

It has been a challenge because every single track the degradation and stuff is different. It’s about constantly adapting to it and going through as much as you can with the team to make sure you’re on top of things.

I guess the limited track-time doesn’t help, you just have to do your learning in the races.

Yeah, exactly. We have 40-45 minutes of practice, which really goes by quite quickly. And then you’re on a softer compound for qualifying altogether. So again it changes things up. So it’s all about constantly adapting and improvising throughout the weekend.

Has it been a bigger step than you expected from F3 to F2?

Honestly, not really. Obviously, the car is a bit faster and a bit heavier to drive but I’ve not struggled physically at all. It makes things different but nothing special compared to F3.

Would it be fair to say this is the most pressure you’ve felt ever in your career? You’re in the spotlight in F2, one step below F1, and you’ve got the Red Bull backing, which brings its own share of pressure?

There’s always going to be pressure. I just always put pressure on myself. It’s not really pressure from the outside, so there’s not really been any extra pressure. It’s just pressure that you have to be used to in a sport like racing. If you can’t drive and cope under pressure, then you don’t really belong there.

Can you draw confidence from the F2 fortunes of someone like a Mick Schumacher? He had a difficult first season but is now leading the championship. Some drivers maybe just need that extra year to get in the groove.

Yeah, I think some drivers do take longer to get going. It’s just a thing that happens. The more you drive, the better you become. You can just improve. It’s been a tough year, but I’m still being quite positive about it. I’m just hoping to have a better end of the season and hopefully a strong start, if I drive in F2 next year.

And it has been coming together. Monza onward, you’ve been stringing together those points finishes. How do you want to round out the year now?

I want to get a podium and hopefully, get a win. My target is not to score points. [I want to] try to do well and try to be on the podium. It is a bit disappointing but I’ll try my best to be there in the next coming rounds.

You touched upon next year. Have you decided what you’re going to be doing next year?

Honestly, I haven’t really decided yet. My plan is to continue in Formula 2. I’ll be working towards that in the next month or so and hopefully have a decision by the end of the season.

Will you continue being a part of the Red Bull driver programme?

We haven’t really talked about next year, yet. So, I think by the end of the season we will know more about next year as well.     

 

Abhishek Takle

Also see:

F2: Daruvala’s late race charge earns him 4th place at British GP

Kush Maini 2nd overall in 2020 British F3 championship

 

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