An eventual F1 seat has been the ultimate goal throughout Daruvala’s racing journey. However, the road to F1 is not easy – and the Indian driver has several small goals to achieve before he can prepare for an F1 future.

Red Bull renewing its junior driver contract for 2022 was a step in the right direction. As Marko, notoriously hard to please, Red Bull’s motorsport adviser and head of its driver development program, shared with this writer: “Jehan’s improvements towards the end of the 2021 Formula 2 season were the key criteria that led us to renew our partnership for 2022. .”

Daruvala’s goal for 2022 is clear: “My only goal is to win the 2022 Formula 2 championship. I want to be in Formula 1 in 2023 and I want to earn my place on merit.”

Signing with Prema for 2022 gives Daruvala the chance to race for the most dominant team in F2 in recent times. Since joining the supporting Grands Prix series (then known as GP2) in 2016, the team has won four of a possible six drivers’ titles with Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, Mick Schumacher and Oscar Piastri.

Daruvala knows he has to make this season count – especially since last October he wasn’t even sure if he would continue in F2.

“I thought I would take a break this year,” he admitted. “So to be in Formula 2 with Prema and with Red Bull is a great opportunity.”

Podium: race winner Jehan Daruvala, Carlin

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Daruvala’s performance in 2021 was a step up from his rookie F2 season in 2020, as he finished seventh in the Drivers’ Championship with two race wins and five podiums. However, he was unable to achieve his goal of finishing in the top five of the championship.

Also, for the second consecutive season, he was beaten by his teammate – Dan Ticktum – and was narrowly beaten to the honor of top Red Bull junior driver in the standings by Juri Vips.

However, what these stats don’t reflect is the boost to form Daruvala enjoyed towards the end of the season – the very change that encouraged Marko and Red Bull to renew their partnership with him. So what caused his late-season improvement?

“The main thing was that I became a lot more aggressive and a lot clearer about how I wanted to approach my race,” Daruvala said. “I went from being more defensive to being a little ‘loose’. I wanted to show my rivals that when I’m behind them they have to worry a bit – that I could pull off some daring moves.

“I think having that kind of reputation helps a bit, and it has in the last few races. Because when you start looking for a gap, people know you’re doing well and they give space.

“There are a few riders who have such a reputation – when they’re behind me I’m a bit concerned. So I also wanted to have such a reputation – and make it known. That’s the key element of my aggressive approach. in 2021 and will move me forward in 2022.”

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin Guanyu Zhou, Uni-Virtuosi Racing

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin Guanyu Zhou, Uni-Virtuosi Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The origin of Daruvala’s new approach came from Marko himself. “Dr. Marko was pushing me a lot to change my racing style – to be a lot more aggressive and carefree,” he revealed. “I think it’s more like the Red Bull approach.”

Of course, Daruvala’s shift in mentality begs the question of why he started 2021 with a defensive mindset in the first place. Daruvala candidly confessed: “My defensive mindset was more for Sprints because of the way the format was. If you finished eighth in the first Sprint, there was no advantage to finishing seventh because you would start the next stroke one position further.

“So it was always about maintaining position in this race and scoring points in the next race. But from 2022 the format change helps – all the drivers will attack in both races.”

The 2021 F2 season had an unusual schedule as part of the transition to the F1 support bill alternating with sister series F3. There were eight rounds spread over 10 months from March to December, with many observers complaining that the gap between some rounds was too long.

Daruvala admits that he “didn’t like having so much free time at all. Sometimes we didn’t drive for two whole months. I felt like I could do something else in life and still do a full season!”

But, one of the effects of the spread schedule was that Daruvala had a lot of downtime mid-season. He used it to consume content about how top athletes think, citing an interview Indian cricketer Virat Kohli gave as a particular moment of inspiration.

“The moments we live in competitive sport are very important, but the focus is on how to convert them,” he explained. “And then, of course, the main thing is to have fun.”

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

After two seasons with Carlin in F2, Daruvala will race with Prema in 2022. Incidentally, this is also the path Daruvala followed when he raced in Formula 3 – two seasons with Carlin in European F3 before switching to Prema in the newly created AIF. Formula 3 Championship in 2019.

“There are only three, four good teams in Formula 2 and I only wanted to continue in the series if I had the chance to race for one of them,” Daruvala says of his move to Prema.

“In Formula 2, Carlin is a solid team but if I stayed there for a third season, I would have the same knowledge that I acquired in the first two seasons. Even if the car is the same at Prema as at Carlin, I look forward to the new philosophies, thoughts and approaches of a Formula 2 season.

“For example, the approach to tire management in a race is different at Prema than we had at Carlin, as is the approach to the brakes and putting them in the working range etc. I’m looking forward to combine the two – what I learned at Carlin and what I will learn at Prema.

Daruvala admits he can’t afford another two-halves season like his 2021 campaign, or even his rookie season. “That has to change in 2022 if I want to fight for the title,” he admits. “2022 is a decisive year for me and it will depend on how I deal with it from the start of the season.

“I think the main thing for me is to start 2022 with the same mindset I finished 2021 with. I also know that if I want to drive a Formula 1 towards the end of this year or in a free practice session or even in 2023, I have to improve my physical condition.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin Buzz Racing

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin Buzz Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Norwegian driver Dennis Hauger, another Red Bull junior and last year’s F3 champion, has been announced as Daruvala’s teammate at Prema for 2022. And Daruvala is aware that some of the fiercest competition for the title could well come. of his own team.

“Obviously you can’t underestimate rookies these days after seeing how Oscar [Piastri] was in his rookie season,” he said. “It shows that the Formula 3 champions are quite quick and ready for Formula 2 in their first season.

“Even in the post-season test in 2021 [at Abu Dhabi], Dennis was pretty good. I know he’s super fast and I can’t wait to have him as a teammate in 2022.”

As well as Daruvala and Hauger, Vips, Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa will all sport Red Bull colors in 2022, creating fierce competition within the team for any F1 opportunities that may arise.

“They [F1 teams] I have to give a few free practice sessions during the 2022 season to the rookies, so if my season is going well, I don’t see why I wouldn’t get a free practice session to participate in,” says Daruvala.

“But to be honest, I don’t have a mid-season free practice session in mind. I want to be in Formula 1 in 2023; I think four or five of us will be fighting for a seat and I want to win my seat.” on merit.”

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin Buzz Racing

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin Buzz Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Given the ruthless nature of the Red Bull program and the fact that the Austrian firm already has five of its drivers on the F1 grid, there is no guarantee that success in F2 will translate into a move to the top level. Just ask last year’s champion, Piastri, for proof.

So, one wants to wonder what Daruvala’s plans are if he’s not able to break into Grand Prix racing: “My goal is to be a professional racing driver and my immediate future is I think Formula E would probably interest me the most, apart from Formula 1 – it’s the best single-seater series after Formula 1. There are some very good drivers there – and a lot of between them probably deserve to be in Formula 1.

“So that might be an option for me in the future, but it’s not something I’m thinking about at the moment. As I said, Formula 1 is my main focus and for the next six, seven months, that’s the only thing I’ll do.” think. »

Reiterating his goals for the coming season, Daruvala concluded: “I’m in the best team, I’m part of the Red Bull junior program – I have the best tools to perform. I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself but I believe I can win. I will work very hard with Prema – we achieved great things in 2019 [in F3]. I have a great relationship with them and I want to go even further in 2022.”

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