Many will have their eyes set on Jehan Daruvala when he dons the Red Bull liveried racing suit and starts free practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix in the Carlin F2 car. He is the best shot the Indian population has at seeing a fellow countryman in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsports. His last outing at Sakhir and a strong end-of-season test have instilled hope among the racing community in India.
His last race at Sakhir was the best of his career. Jehan Daruvala won the final race of the season and proved his doubters wrong. It also showed Red Bull and the rest of the grid that the Indian was capable of consistently strong showings.
2020 was a tale of two halves for Jehan Daruvala
The first half of his season was marred by bad performances, which raised a lot of questions about his credibility. A faulty engine, which he said was causing him to lose about half a second on the straights compared to his teammate, was the major reason behind those poor weekends.
"It was like a season of two halves. I have tried to forget the first half and learn to improve in the second half of the season. I hope to carry this form into the next year."
After Jehan Daruvala got an engine change in Monza, his form and fortune both seemed to reverse and he consistently showed good pace. Daruvala earned points in six out of the eight following races. He also won two well-fought podiums.
Expectations this year
Most drivers take a year to settle in Formula 2 machinery before they can have a real shot at the championship. Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou, who had stellar seasons last year, have followed a similar path.
A top-three finish in Formula 2 not only guarantees a super license which is mandatory to drive in Formula 1, it also opens avenues to the greatest racing spectacle in the world. For Daruvala, there are high chances of a seat next year with Gasly speculated to leave AlphaTauri for Alpine. A poor showing by recent F2 graduate Yuki Tsunoda could also push the Indian to a seat in the pinnacle of motorsports.
Jehan Daruvala, backed by the Red Bull junior team, has the talent and a visible road to Formula 1 which he needs to grab with both hands.
Formula 2 has changed its format to now have three races per event. This means that consistent top-10 finishes and blistering qualifying performances will be key for the young Mumbai native.