Mumbai-based race-car driver Jehan Daruvala recently won his first race in the 2019 Formula 3 championship, in Barcelona. We caught up with him soon after to discuss cars, fitness and Parsi food
Jehan Daruvala is just another Parsi boy from Mumbai. He loves his city, his Parsi food and to win professional motorsport races, spilling champagne on the crowds below while standing on the podium. OK, so he’s not like every other Parsi boy out there.
Daruvala grew up in the quiet Dadar Parsi Colony, in Mumbai. He moved to London when he was 13 and completed his GCSE there. While there, he transformed his passion for speed by taking to go-karting, just like racers like Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso did. He quickly mastered the sport, winning several karting titles. He was then chosen as one of the three winners of the Sahara Force India Formula One Team Academy’s ‘One From A Billion’ Hunt.
In 2015, Daruvala strapped himself into single-seaters, with the Fortec Motorsport team for the Formula Renault 2.0 Championships. 2016 saw him switch to Germany’s Josef Kaufmann Racing, where he earned his first pole position and win in the Northern European Cup, finishing fourth overall. In December 2016, Daruvala signed with Carlin Racing, after sharing his intentions to participate in the European Formula 3 Championship. He had a slow start, winning just two races out of a total of 60 starts in the last two seasons. He did get the opportunity to upgrade to Formula 2 but chose to stay back and improve his skills in the F3 format.
In December 2018, he hit a career milestone by signing with one of the most successful racing teams in F3, the Italy-based Prema Racing. This gave him the opportunity to drive much more powerful cars than what he was used to (a bigger 3.4-liter engine, compared to the 2-liter engine from his last season). After hitting a few technical hitches, he won the inaugural round of the FIA Formula 3 Championship in Barcelona, making India proud.
What attracted you to motorsport?
I would say speed. I was and am a fan of speed, and motorsport involves a lot of it.
When it comes to cricket and football, it’s fairly easy to practice, since you just need a ball and a bat. Getting hold of a racing car to practice is definitely a lot tougher. How did you perfect your skills?
It was mainly through go-karting. I spent a lot of time karting, which was the main thing that let me groom most of my skills. On average, I spent at least three days in week karting. I think that really helped me out, especially karting in the rain. You don’t get the opportunity to drive in wet conditions like that, so all those days were very helpful.
Do you see the niche nature of motorsport finally changing in India, or do you think we still have a long way to go?
In all frankness, motorsport has improved in India, but there’s definitely a long way to go.
Why do you think that’s the case?
Because there’s no money invested in racing, on a scale like cricket. In Europe, people who enjoy the sport put in a lot of money, and everything is done on a larger scale – more cars, more drivers and right down to mechanics, they just have a lot more.
Whom do you consider to be your idol, in motorsport or otherwise?
It would have to be Fernando Alonso.
What inspires you to push yourself?
Winning. Be it on or off the track, my goal always is to win. I’m just a competitive person in general.
You had the opportunity to move up to Formula 2, but you decided to stay back. Why was that?
I had the opportunity to drive with Prema in Formula 3. It was a big opportunity for me, since they are one of the top teams at this level of motorsport, and have been for a long time. I wanted to drive in a team of this scale, and get used to the environment and their professionalism. In Formula 2, I probably wouldn’t have had such an opportunity.
In a sport like racing, the last lap really matters – it’s what decides everything. During that moment, what exactly is going through your mind?
When you’re leading the race, it feels great, and all you want to do is cross that chequered flag. It’s a bit of a weird feeling actually because you know you’re going to win, so you’re almost thinking how you’re going to celebrate when you come down those last corners, but at the same time, you don’t want to lose focus either.
What is your fitness regime like?
It depends on what aspects I need to work on, and from car to car. But the main focus for us as racing drivers are neck and upper body strength, which, luckily, I’ve never really struggled with till date.
Other than racing cars, what are your favorite cars?
I like sports cars, and Lamborghini Aventador is probably my favorite car.
What are the other things you enjoy doing?
I love spending time with my friends, whenever I’m in the city. I’m quite a home bird too, so I like spending time at home.
What kind of food do you like?
I like Parsi food.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Probably eating a Shake Shack burger, in London.
Most chefs will say that once they get home, they don’t enter their kitchens. Is it the same for you? When you’re out with your friends or family, do you like being the designated driver?
It depends. I don’t like driving in traffic and generally, there’s always traffic in Mumbai. But I like driving from Mumbai to Lonavala, especially late at night.
Given the recent trend in Bollywood, if a filmmaker wanted to make a biopic on you, which actor would you like to play you?
What advice would you give to someone looking to be a professional racer?
My coach tells me to remember to have fun, and not let the pressure get to you. Motorsport is a high-pressure environment, and if you let that get to you, then everything becomes a lot harder. Also, there are a lot of ups and downs that you’ll face, with more downs than ups. So you need to learn to cherish the moments where you succeed and keep looking forward in the moments you don’t.
What’s next for Jehan Daruvala?
I eventually want to make my way to Formula 1 in a couple of years.