Jehan Daruvala makes history with F3 win in Nuremburg

jehan-daruvalaWhen he took the checkered flag in his Formula 3 race at the Norisring circuit in Nuremburg, Germany on Sunday, Jehan Daruvala ended a long standing drought in Indian motorsport.

It’s because the last Indian to have won an F3 race was Narain Karthikeyan when he claimed two victories in the 1999 British F3 championships. Daruvala would have been less than a year old back then.

On Sunday, in Race 3 of what was the fourth round of the F3 European Championships, Daruvala, racing a 240 horsepower Carlin Motorsports vehicle, completed 42 laps of the 2.3m long Norisring circuit in 34.29.733 seconds. He was nearly a half second (.458 seconds) clear of Maximilian Gunther, who originally held pole position.

“To win the race is very special. Narain Karthikeyan was the last Indian to win it and he went on to compete in the Formula 1. So that makes this win very special for me,” Daruvala told ESPN after his win.

The win was the latest first for the 18-year-old from Mumbai, who is making his debut in the F3 European Championships which is seen as the first major stepping stone towards becoming an F1 driver. In April this year, Daruvala had become the first Indian to take pole position in the F3 European series when he started top of the grid for Race 1 of the second round of the championships in Monza, Italy.

Daruvala had been pipped to the second rung of the podium then and he ensured a repeat didn’t occur in Nuremberg where once again he was on the front row of the grid, having finished second in qualifying for Race 3.

“I had started in the middle of the grid in the first couple of races. But I was improving steadily over the weekend. I started out ninth in qualifying in the first race, fifth in the second and by the third race I was in the front of the grid,” Daruvala said.

Freed from the worry of having to compete for a spot in the middle of the pack, Daruvala could focus on edging out Gunther, who had already won four races this season including Race 1 at Norisring.

“At the front of the grid, my only focus was getting off the line and taking the lead at the first turn. I was able to get a 1.1 second gap and then defend it,” Daruvala explained.

While Gunther fought to close the distance, Daruvala was able to hold him off. “On the Norisring, it is very difficult to overtake a good defensive driver. Because I took the lead in the first turn, I had to defend for the entire race. There were a lot of laps to go, so I was very nervous. But luckily I was able to keep my head. I had to make sure I didn’t do anything silly for 41 laps.”

There were a few nerves especially as the full course yellow flag was twice raised owing to accidents on the course but Daruvala says he knew his luck was bound to turn at some point in the championships: “I had two podium finishes already this season so I knew eventually I would get a win.”

It was a win that caused Karthikeyan himself to mark him out as one to watch out for. “By far India’s brightest prospect of making it to F1,” Karthikeyan, the first Indian to compete in Formula 1, tweeted soon after the race.

Daruvala himself wasn’t celebrating just yet, though.

“I haven’t made any special plans about this win. I have to take this in my stride. It is only the first step. There are still so many more to go. I can’t think about the future. I have to make the most of what I have in the present.”

Published on ESPN