BENGALURU: It’s been over a decade since India last hosted a Formula 1 race – often termed the pinnacle of motorsports – and it’s been even longer since an Indian-origin driver competed in the championship. But in recent years, amidst the sport’s ever-growing popularity, the number of contenders from India, each vying for a spot on the F1 roster, has only grown. While drivers like Jehan Dharuvala and Kush Maini have been routinely impressing in the formula feeder series, earning themselves the support of big-name F1 teams like Red Bull and Alpine, a 16-year-old originally from Bengaluru, is now turning heads with his impressive campaigns in Karting and lower formula.
Born to a Kannadiga family in Mysuru, Dion Gowda impressed in his debut British Formula 4 campaign last season, earning four wins and six podium finishes, alongside, three pole positions. This year, the British resident has set his sights on the UAE Formula 4 championship that kickstarted last Wednesday at the Yas Marina International Circuit in Abu Dhabi. “It was a positive start, securing P6 in the first race. It’s a competitive field with 35 drivers from around the world and I’m eager to build on this momentum, aiming for podium finishes in the upcoming races,” says Gowda, adding, “Obviously, I want to do well and possibly win the championship, but it’s just a season to learn again and keep improving. We’ve got a good chance with a really strong team and I’m so excited to see how it goes.”
Driving for the Mumbai Falcons, Gowda has undertaken extensive preparations ahead of the season, including simulator and real-world testing to get acclimated to the new circuits. “I spent a lot of time on the simulator, getting used to the tracks. And then that way, I’m more prepared when I hit the track in real life, as well as that I have a test programme with a team where I do 20-plus days around the tracks. And that way, we just learn and I also build a good relationship with the team,” he adds.
Scheduled over 15 races across five rounds, success in the UAE F4 championship would mark yet another significant step in Gowda’s racing career, building on his impressive performances in the British FR Championship and earlier karting experiences and on his way to Formula 1 in the near future. “My ultimate aim is to become Formula One World Champion – preferably the first from India,” he shares, adding, “In five years, if all goes well, we should be knocking on the door of F1. So it’s not too far away now.” Who’s his biggest inspiration from the world of motorsport? “Lewis Hamilton!” he quips, adding, “I grew up watching him, I’ve always looked up to him. The way he works, his self-confidence, and what he’s accomplished so far, it’s been inspiring.”
Meanwhile, having been to India at the tail end of last year, he expresses his surprise at the growing popularity of motorsports in the country. “I frequently get messages from people showing their love and support. While I was at the Indian F4 Championship, I got to meet a lot of fans and interact with them, which was a good experience,” he adds.