Home Featured How a fourth year in F2 became key to Daruvala’s new career plan

How a fourth year in F2 became key to Daruvala’s new career plan

by Ida Wood

Photos: Formula Motorsport Ltd

No more McLaren and no more Red Bull for Jehan Daruvala in 2023, as he starts to look for a future away from F1 while continuing to race in F2. He explained what has influenced his approach to this year

Last season “didn’t really go to plan” for Jehan Daruvala, but it was not a year lost for the Indian who was then in his third Formula 2 campaign. He claimed his first feature race win, conducting several private Formula 1 tests with McLaren and was part of the Red Bull Junior Team. A few days after the F2 finale, Mahindra announced him as its Formula E reserve driver.

But the negatives outweighed the positives, ultimately leading to him leaving Red Bull for 2023, and it meant he had to start thinking more creatively through the year about how to continue his racing career. Without F2 success, options were limited.

“I kind of had to look for options outside of F1, and FE was kind of the best one for me,” Daruvala said to media at last weekend’s F2 season opener.

“And with Mahindra being an Indian team, me being an Indian driver, I think it was the best suited combination. So it worked well for both of us. A reserve driver is one thing, I want to be in the real seat soon. I still have to do well in F2. It’s not a given, I have to be fighting for the championship here and earn my seat wherever I go.”

F2 has 14 rounds this year, and two of those clash with FE. That leaves seven e-prix where he will be available to Mahindra, but his duties with the team won’t just be trackside.

“I also have to be at Mahindra, do correlations, do simulator [work[, and also be at quite a few of the FE events. It’s going to be a busy year for me, but it’s busy in a good way and hopefully my season does go well and I can be racing in FE next year.”

Mahindra, like Red Bull before it, is expecting “quite a lot from” Daruvala in terms of results.

“I’m going to only get that seat on my head and not because I’m Indian, so I need to be fighting at the front winning races. I mean F1 is still not impossible, I would say, I need to definitely win a championship and then see how it goes.”

Staying in F2 for a fourth year initially was not the plan for Daruvala, and it was not until late January that he was actually confirmed as joining reigning champion team MP Motorsport, possibly the best move for realising his title-winning goal.

“I think it was a pretty hard decision midway through last year when things wasn’t going to plan, I pretty much had enough [of F2]. I didn’t want to do it, continue doing it.

“But I think my future lies mainly in FE, and either going to America or to Japan for one season would not really make a lot of sense. And also doing nothing for a year wouldn’t really make a lot of sense either. So I had the opportunity to be back in F2 with MP. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t in a top team.”

Daruvala reckons his 2023 plans came into place “at a similar time” last year, although comments he made at the end of 2022 and the late announcement of his MP deal left many wondering whether he would stay in the series.

“Actually, even with MP, it was like done, not kind of done, it was like I wasn’t sure myself if I was going to be here or not. So I’m glad it all went through in the end. I would say maybe two or three weeks before [the F2 finale in] Abu Dhabi I knew that I would be with MP, and probably a similar time for Mahindra.”

The 24-year-old was with top teams in previous F2 campaigns, starting with two seasons driving for Rodin Carlin. In his second year he won two sprint races and was seventh in the points, an end result he matched with reigning champion team Prema in 2022. The lack of improvement on the previous year, and a failure to qualify on the front row, did not look good.

“I think qualifying and speed-wise, I’ll probably say my first year [in F2] was the best in quali,” Daruvala admitted.

Photo: Red Bull

“Last year, sadly we just weren’t quick enough with the package that we had. Even the feature race that I won in Monza, we were good that weekend. There was also a little bit of luck on my side, but I feel like last year was the best I drove in my three seasons of F2 and I still didn’t get the result that we wanted. Hopefully I just have a package that can help me show the world what I can do, and I believe that I can be the best and fight at the front of the championship.”

Despite his disillusionment with F2, Daruvala “wanted to stay in single-seaters” for 2023, and explained why the alternative options to F2 weren’t worthwhile.

“There’s FE, IndyCar and Super Formula [at the top level]. I think also I want to be more racing in Europe. I’m used to the environment in Europe. I know a lot of the people, a lot of the people know me. If I went to America or Japan, it would all be new to me.

“Apart from that, I think FE has got a high level of teams, high level of manufacturers and also the drivers that are super high level. So I want to be racing with the best drivers in the world, and I think FE would have that. So it’s a suitable option for me and definitely a profession that I think will suit me well.”

Formula Scout asked Daruvala if the change in his mindset late in 2022 to look towards FE rather than F1 was what led to his Red Bull exit, given the brand does not race in the series.

“No, my exit from Red Bull was not related to that,” he replied. “Some relationships come to an end, and that one did.

“Obviously they didn’t see me in their F1 seat this year, and didn’t really give me any options to be a reserve. So it didn’t really make sense for me to continue in the academy. Obviously they still have a huge amount of drivers in F2. It was three good years for me to be part of them, but sometimes, like I said, things do come to an end. Hopefully I can make them regret that decision at the end of this year and beat all the juniors that are in F2.”

Photo: Nick Dungan

He also confirmed that there will be no continuation of the McLaren tests, despite the end of his Red Bull junior status removing a conflict in interest that testing for a rival previously had.

Daruvala’s car racing career
Series Years Starts Wins Podiums Highest series placing
F2 2020- 76 4 15 7th (2021 & ’22)
FIA F3 2019 16 2 7 3rd
GP3 2018 2 26th
European F3 2017-18 60 2 8 6th (2017)
European F3 2017-18 60 2 8 6th (2017)
FRegional Asia 2021 15 3 8 3rd
TRS 2016-17 30 5 15 2nd (2016)
FR Eurocup 2015-16 22 1 9th (2016)
FR Alps 2015 7 1 NC
FR NEC 2015-16 31 1 8 4th (2016)