I will work my way to Formula 1, says Mumbai lad Jehan Daruvala

Jul 23, 2017, 18:05 IST | Rohan Koli

Mumbai lad Jehan Daruvala created history by becoming the first Indian to win a FIA Formula 3 European Championship on Nuremberg circuit in Germany. Daruvala says he wants to reach the 'pinnacle of motorsport' steadily

India racer Jehan Daruvala at his home in Dadar recently.

Mumbai lad Jehan Daruvala, (18), created history by becoming the first Indian to win a FIA Formula 3 European Championship on the Nuremberg circuit in Germany, earlier this month. The teenager's feat comes 18 years after Narain Karthikeyan won the British F3 Championship.

Jehan, who first shot into the limelight by winning third place in Sahara Force India's 'One in a billion hunt' in 2011, vows to end the Formula 3 season on a high. The ultimate aim of course is to become India's next F1 driver.

Jehan, who has been signed by Carlin Motorsport for the 2017 season, talks to mid-day about his upcoming, July 28, 29 race at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, tough fitness regime and his F1 dream.

Excerpts from an interview:

Tell us something about your recent races
I took pole position in Monza (Italy, in April), where I finished second. I had a good start and was in the lead with five minutes to go, but unfortunately, finished second. Then, I made another podium finish in Hungary, last month, where I finished third. I thought I had the speed there but couldn't really overtake on that track. And finally, I won at Norisring (Germany, earlier this month). I started from second place, took an early lead and was in control throughout the race.

How do you look forward to your next race in Spa on July 28, 29?
Spa is one of my favourite racing tracks, also it is the longest track on the calendar. The track has a great variety, difrerent kinds of corners, which makes it difficult. Victory in Norisring has given me confidence and I'm really looking forward to doin well in Spa too. The aim is to be quick in qualifying and finish on the podium, maybe a win too.

Could you explain the differece between F3 and F1 from a layman's point of understanding?
F3 is a junior series, where young drivers develop their skills to get ready for F1 which is the top level of motorsport. It's a dream for all young drivers to get there. I think to get to F 1, it is important to occupy one of the top places in F3 consistently because it shows that you have the ability and talent to perform against the best drivers in the world. The likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg, and a many other F1 drivers have all come from F3.

How inspired are you by someone like Karthikeyan, the first Indian to win a F3 race and also compete in F1?
He was the first Indian driver at F1, so that itself is very inspirational for me. Narain congratulated me on Twitter after my win in Norisring, and that was very motivating. He's a inspiration for any young Indian driver.

People are seeing you as the next big thing in racing in India. Your comment?
It feels great. But my goal is obviously to make it to F1. Myself, and all the people around me, are working very hard to make this dream come true. It would be great to be the next Indian in F1.

When can we expect to see you racing in F1?
It depends on a lot of factors, to be honest. It's hard to put a time period on it, maybe three to four years. As long as I keep working and performing, I'm sure I'll get there.

Why do you feel it will take three to four years?
That's because I want to get there as a complete racing driver. I am still quite young. I have time on my side, so there's no rush to jump steps and climb the ladder too quickly. It's better to be fully prepared rather than getting there and trying to prepare.

Tell us about your fitness regime
I work closely with Pioneered Athlete Performance in United Kingdom, who support me both on and off the track. Even when I am on a short break in India, I send them pictures of every meal I eat and send them short videos of my gym routines. They are in touch with my fitness instructor in India to ensure that I do my optimum training. Gym sessions are very important, as motorsport is very demanding on the whole body. The neck is probably the most physical, because we pull up to 3 ½ and 4 ½ Gs also for a sustained periode. It's pretty hard on the neck, so if you don't train physically, you will struggle mentally.

What made you get into motorsport?
As a kid, I loved watching racing on TV and always wanted to be a racing driver. My dad, Khurshed, too enjoyed recreational karting and I used to love going with him to the go karting track in Mumbai. When I first sat in a kart, my feet couldn't reach the pedals and dad had to put two cushions behind my back so I could drive. I kept urging my dad to find out how I could get into motorsport but noe one in my family had a clue. Then, one day, when I was 11, my dad saw an advertisement in the paper, where Rayomand Banajee of Rayo Racing was holding a camp in Powai for young drivers. The trials were on a weekend and I had an English exam on Monday, so I had to convince my mother, Kainaz, to let me go karting. After a lot of convincing, she agreed. Rayomand sir was impressed with my driving and things clicked thereafter.

What made you shift to the United Kingdom?
In 2012-13, when I was part of the Force India F1 Academy, I was racing in the British National Karting Championship (2012-13). So we thought that shifting to UK would be better. It was good for my racing because practice and everything was going to take place there. The decision to move to UK was the best thing for me.

Who is your idol in motorsport?
My idol has always been Fernando Alonso. His ability to drive the car always to extreme limits, no matter which car it is, gives me a lot of confidence.

Is there a future for motorsports in India?
Obviously, it's hard because there are not many professional tracks here. Having more tracks will give drivers more opportunities. When F1 came to India (at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida from 2011 to 2013), it inspired many young drivers and sports lovers. Motorsport in India grew then. I think if the Indian GP returns, it will be great for Indian motorsport, which is still small and in a growing phase.

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