Jehan Daruvala and Arjun Maini both made their mark in their respective junior series. Now they must continue to make their mark.
As this issue goes to print, Jehan Daruvala would have completed the third round of this year’s FIA European Formula 3 Championship. But not before making a very noticeable impression in the round prior to that.
As was the case with his compatriot Arjun Maini who ensured that the motorsport world take note of not just one, but two Indian prodigies trying to make their way to Formula 1.
Eighteen-year-old Daruvala from Mumbai was able to convert his maiden pole position in the championship after scoring second place in a thrilling first of three races at the second round of the season at Monza in Italy.
Then nineteen-year-old Arjun Maini made the most of his full-time switch to one of F1’s official feeder series – GP3 – after two largely unsuccessful seasons in European Formula 3. Qualifying sixth, and finishing seventh in the feature race at the opening round in Spain – as support for the Spanish Grand Prix – Maini won the shorter sprint race to become the first Indian to win at the GP3 level.
Daruvala, on the other hand, was part of a super competitive 19-driver field that included his Carlin teammate Lando Norris, one of the best junior racing prospects in the world, who is supported by McLaren. The Sahara Force India Academy driver started a classic slipstreaming battle with the Briton at the Italian Grand Prix venue’s long straights and fast corners.
Leading the race and bearing the brunt of all the air resistance favoured the chasing driver as the lead driver punches a hole in the air, creating a vacuum that sucks the driver behind.
After the opening high, however, Daruvala had a low-key end to the round with a tenth and eighth place on the starting grid for the remaining two races of the weekend.
Those resulted in an eighth and ninth place finish in the two races, respectively, that saw Daruvala keep his streak of scoring points in all the races of the season so far.
Maini’s weekend, by contrast, ended on a high. Driving for Jenzer Motorsport, Maini started the 17-lap sprint race around the 16-turn, 4.655km Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in second place after finishing seventh in the feature race for which he had qualified sixth.
With the top eight finishers starting the sprint race in reverse order, Maini lined up second on the grid.
The Bengaluru-native took the lead on lap five from Trident’s Dorian Boccolacci and was able to stretch it out to just over six seconds by the time the chequered flag fell.
Maini’s teammate Alessio Lorandi finished third as the Indian’s points haul from the round was enough for him to climb to third in the points standings, just six points behind ART Grand Prix’s Nirei Fukuzumi and only two points behind Lorandi who had also scored a podium in the feature race.
While Maini is yet to qualify at the really sharp-end of the grid and score a feature race podium, he got close last year at Sepang with a fourth place finish. Not to mention that he is only 19 and as an added bonus to his fine weekend, landed a development driver role with the Haas F1 Team, no doubt thanks to his well-connected mentor Karun Chandhok – the last Indian to win in an official F1 feeder series - and the attraction for an F1 team to have a driver from India.
While India may not yet be on the F1 calendar, the sport knows the importance of being in India given its young and aspirational population and growing automotive sector.
And what better way for those two aspects to literally manifest than two aspirational teenagers trying to make it big in the world of motorsport?