CHENNAI: Formula 2 can make or break a promising driver's career. Acting as a feeder system for entry into Formula 1, an impressive performance in the circuit can propel the driver to the pinnacle of motorsport. It is why Jehan Daruvala is content. What started as a below-average season ended up on a memorable note in the Indian's maiden Formula 2 stint.
It was a roller-coaster of a rookie year for the Carlin Motorsport's driver, who capped off his campaign by becoming the first Indian to triumph in F2 when he clinched the Sakhir GP in Bahrain on Sunday. It was his second podium finish after coming third in the feature race at the same venue on November 28.
The first half of the campaign was not kind for the 22-year-old, as he struggled with the engine. In the first eight rounds, he accumulated just 23 points from 16 races. It was only after the race in Monza in September that he started to show his potential in tangible terms.
"In the first half of the season, I struggled with the starts. I had engine trouble for half of the year. Only after the Monza race, we changed it and got a new one," he told this newspaper.
"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."
The change in engine worked wonders as Daruvala was among the points in the last six of the eight races including two back-to-back podium finishes.
Overall, he claimed 72 points to finish 12th on the drivers' standings. His Carlin teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, however, was not plagued by this issue as he occupied the third position with 200 points.
The Mumbai-born racer admitted that there were times when it was hard to find motivation but once the issue was sorted in September, there were "a lot of positives" to take.
"When you have a slight disadvantage like that, it makes you feel not good about yourself. But there is nothing you can do about it except try to get it (engine) changed at the earliest. If not for the new engine, the whole season would have been a one to forget," he sighed.
Touted as the next big thing in Indian motorsport, the transition from F3 to F2 wasn't easy for Daruvala. It did take him some time to get accustomed to the heavier cars with wider noses as well as a different brake system.
However, looking ahead, he said he would leave no stone unturned in 2021. He confirmed to this daily that he will be racing in F2 next year.
"Very small things make a big difference. You have carbon breaks here. The main difference is the type of tyres. My target was to finish in the top 5 in the championship as a rookie. But with bad starts and engine troubles, I was out of that equation after five to six rounds. But the biggest takeaway is that I was able to finish as one of the best from being the worse," said the driver who is a part of the Red Bull Racing junior driver programme.
"To know that I can fight at the front and for a podium in the latter half of the season is a big confidence booster ahead of the next season."