“My goal is to race in Formula One.” When 17-year-old Shahaan Engineer said what any budding racer of his age would, when quizzed about their ambitions, he said it with a maturity years ahead of his age, and with an assurance bereft of any naivety.
The Mumbai-born Parsi racer’s confidence in his abilities cannot be questioned after what he achieved last weekend. After all, he had just achieved a maiden pole and his first two podiums in as many races in the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup (NEC).
Formula One may still be just a far away dream, but NEC’s youngest driver cannot be blamed for the adrenaline rush he is feeling after pulling off two runners-up performances in Race 2 and Race 3 in Zandvoort (the Netherlands) on Sunday.
Representing championship-winning UK team Fortec Motorsports, Shahaan (+ 0.602secs) narrowly missed out on victory in Race 2 after starting from pole and maintaining the lead for most of the race. He was pipped to the winner’s step on the podium by Holland’s Steijn Schothorst (26 minutes 2.892 seconds). In race 3, Shahaan (+0.841) finished behind Brit Jordan King (19 minutes and 13.743 seconds).
Shahaan’s love affair with the sport started when he was just 12. “In 2007, I went go-karting for fun and fell in love with it. I then started racing in a senior go-kart at a very young age. I used to drive it every day,” Shahaan told MiD DAY from London yesterday.
First in 2011...
“In 2011, we found out about the Formula Renault tournament. In the end of 2011, I had a test run with Fortec Motorsport and I beat their lap time record.
They were very impressed and allowed me to skip the lower races. They sent me straight to Formula Renault 2.0,” added Shahaan, who has been obsessing over making it to F1 for over a year now. “In early 2011, I decided I want to go to Formula One in the future. F1 is three or four years away. My main goal at the moment is to get there.”
Shahaan’s drive to achieve his dream at such a young age demands tons of sacrifices. But he doesn’t regret being unable to live life like most teenagers of his age. “It’s a tough job and requires huge amount of commitment. I stay up till 1am catching up with studies. Social life is affected slightly but I have my best friends. It’s nothing too bad.”
Shahaan’s family moved to Dubai in 1999, and he is currently living by himself in the UK, where he is completing his education at Leighton Park School (UK) in Berkshire.
Living away from home for over a decade, Shahaan still misses his country: “I visit India quite often. I love India. I miss the place a lot. Whenever I go there I feel something special.”
Shahaan, who has surged from 11th place in NEC to seventh, will be in action again in the season’s last race at Spa — Francorchamps (Belgium) next month.