Daruvala scores maiden F2 podium

Indian racer Jehan Daruvala secured his first podium finish in Formula 2 last Saturday after fending off championship leader Mick Schumacher in Bahrain.

His third-place finish couldn't have come at a better time as it has been a tough first season in F2 for the 22-year-old.

The Bahrain Grand Prix saw F2, the rung below the mega Formula One which features the likes of Lewis Hamilton, return to action after a two-month break.

Starting the race from eighth on the grid, Daruvala, who drives for the Carlin Motorsport team, enjoyed a good start and was up to sixth place at the end of the opening lap. He found himself running in third place with 10 laps to go, but had Schumacher right behind him after a charge of fresh tyres.

With the championship on the line, the German, the son of the seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher, remained more cautious as he caught up to the back of Daruvala.

The Indian racer took full advantage of this and showed aggressive defending as he held on to clinch his first podium in F2. Schumacher had to settle for fourth place.

"It's been a long time since I've been back up here," said an elated Daruvala after the race. "It was quite fun. I knew he has a lot more than I have to lose, so I was the more aggressive one there. I think it was fair racing and I took my chances with him and it worked out in the end."

Daruvala became the first Indian to stand on the podium in an FIA Formula 2 race since Karun Chandhok won in the erstwhile GP2 Series at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium in 2007. GP2 was rebranded as FIA Formula 2 in 2017.

Daruvala had always maintained that he was determined to round off his maiden F2 season in style. It has been a difficult year for the Mumbai lad as he struggled to really get into the groove. His biggest handicap in the first half of the season was his starts, but he believes he has successfully addressed that.

He told Autocar India earlier that he was looking forward to the final two rounds in Bahrain as his confidence is growing. "Honestly, my main thing for half of the season was the start. Every start I went like four or five places backward. So that was not good at all," he said.

"I had good qualifying sessions, quite a few top sixes, but it never turned into good results because I just went backwards at the start. On the last two weekends, all my starts have been quite good and consistent. I'm now actually quite confident that if I qualify well, I can finish at the front after having a good start."

Daruvala scored his first points in Hungary, finished fifth in Russia in the feature race and a fighting fourth in the sprint race at Silverstone.

The 2020 F2 championship will conclude with the Sprint Race on Sunday in Bahrain. Daruvala is lying 13th in the 25-driver standings with 51 points. Schumacher leads with 205 points. Britain's Callum Ilott (191) is second.

"The 2020 F2 season is very important for me to establish myself," Daruvala told The Indian Express. "If I have a strong first season, I can make the jump to F1 much earlier. I'm planning a two-year programme in F2.

"Being part of the Red Bull Junior programme gives you an excellent chance to get to F1. If you are competitive as a Red Bull junior, a promotion to an F1 seat is possible as it has happened in the past with Sebastian Vettel and Max Vestappen."

Indo-Asian News Service

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