B0ahrain, Nov 28 (IANS) Indian racing star Jehan Daruvala earned his maiden FIA Formula 2 podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix Support Race on Saturday. The Red Bull Racing Junior is the first Indian to stand on the podium in an FIA Formula 2 Race, in the present era of the championship.
The F2 season moved to Sakhir, Bahrain, for the last two rounds of the F2 championship, and Daruvala immediately showed his pace in the only practice session. In the last 15 minutes, Daruvala posted a lap time of 1:42.782 seconds to go fastest. With just five minutes left, Nikita Mazepin of Russia went faster by a mere 0.122 secs.
Qualifying threatened to completely undo all of Daruvala’s efforts. He faced traffic on his quick laps that allowed him to post a time that was quick enough for eighth on the grid, two places ahead of Championship leader Mick Schumacher. Callum Ilott of Great Britain earned another pole position.
Daruvala made an excellent start for the Feature Race (Race 1) from eighth. He gained two places and stayed in a sixth for a few laps. Daruvala and other racers on the Medium compound of tyre, then seemed to struggle against those on the Hard Compound. Lap 5 saw Daruvala lose two places and was forced off the circuit. The resulting loss of speed lost him more positions. Daruvala stayed in tenth for a few laps before pitting to change tyres.
The 22 year old Indian emerged from the pit down in 18th place. He then reeled of a series of quick laps to climb up the order. He gained more positions as others pitted and was running sixth by lap 19 of the 32 lap race. Daruvala soon overtook multiple race winner Robert Shwartzman to move up to fifth.
Race leader Mick Schumacher then took his mandatory pit stop. Daruvala’s blistering pace after his own pit stop meant that Schumacher emerged from the pits behind Daruvala, who was now running third.
The main risk was that Schumacher had tyres that were many laps fresher than Daruvala. The two were evenly matched for at least another six laps, before Schumacher, now in his second season, started closing the gap to Daruvala. Schumacher soon brought the gap down from two seconds to around 1.5 seconds. Besides much fresher tyres, Schumacher was also now on the faster Medium compound and charged to reduce the gap down to 0.7 seconds with five laps remaining.
Unfortunately for Daruvala, this meant that Schumacher was now also able to use his DRS (Drag Reduction System) which gave him extra speed on three straights around the F1 circuit. It seemed only a matter of corners before Schumacher would overtake Daruvala.
However, in a nail biting few laps, Daruvala without the option of DRS and a tyre disadvantage drove one of his best races of the season. With three laps to go, Daruvala had to defend aggressively into the first corner, both drivers were side by side for a few corners but Daruvala was not giving up in spite of his disadvantage. He held his nerve and placed his Carlin car in exactly the right places, preventing Schumacher from getting ahead.
Two laps before the end of the race, Schumacher momentarily got ahead of Daruvala, but the Indian was not going to allow that and he braked late, to get the position back. Daruvala’s excellent racing caused Schumacher to make a couple of mistakes. This allowed Daruvala room to breathe. He continued his intelligent drive to increase the gap and crossed the line 0.894 seconds ahead of Schumacher, to earn a really well deserved third place. Brazilian Felipe Drugovich won the race ahead of Callum Ilott.
Daruvala was the second runner-up in the FIA Formula 3 Championship last year. He earns his maiden FIA Formula 2 podium, in his first season in the ultra-competitive championship, which has seen 15 other racers stand on the podium. Daruvala’s achievement is also the first podium, by an Indian in the current iteration of the FIA Formula 2 Championship.