India’s Jehan Daruvala opened his bid for the Formula 2 title with a second-place finish in the Sprint race of the championship’s first round in Bahrain.
The 23-year-old from Mumbai, who races for Prema Racing and is a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, had started fourth after qualifying seventh under the championship’s reverse grid rules.
Daruvala’s season-opening podium was founded on a good start. He was up to third straight away and, after fending off fellow Red Bull junior Liam Lawson in the Carlin, he set about in pursuit of second-placed Ralph Boschung.
The safety car was deployed on Lap 3 to clear away the stranded Hitech of Marcus Armstrong.
It bunched up the field but Daruvala, who took his first F2 win in Bahrain in 2020, held position, once again prevailing in a wheel-to-wheel battle with Lawson.
He caught and passed Boschung on Lap 16 just before the race was interrupted for the second time by a Virtual Safety Car.
Boschung retook second as the race resumed. But the Indian seized the place back on the 18th lap with a bold move around the outside of the Swiss racer into the right-handed turn 4.
He crossed the line less than two seconds behind Richard Verschoor.
“We definitely have a lot of positives to take. Finishing second in the first race of the year is a good start. I think we had the pace to fight for the win,” Daruvala said.
“Unfortunately, I mistimed the Virtual Safety Car restart which lost us a lot of time and eventually cost us the win. But overall, we have a really good car and I’m quite pleased with our start to the season.”
Daruvala now heads into Sunday’s feature race, which he will start from seventh, where he qualified. He is hoping for another strong result to round out an encouraging season-opening weekend.
This season is Daruvala’s third in Formula 2, the feeder-series that sits below F1 on the single-seater ladder.
He raced for Carlin in the last two seasons but has made the move to Prema Racing this year.
The Italian racing powerhouse is the most successful outfit in Formula 2, having delivered three of the series’ five drivers’ champions, including Ferrari Formula 1 race winner Charles Leclerc and Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time world champion Michael.
Daruvala, who finished third in the Formula 3 standings while racing for Prema in 2019, is looking to emulate this duo and follow Australian Oscar Piastri as the squad’s third straight Formula 2 champion.
He is eyeing a step up to F1 in 2023, which would make him only the third Indian to compete in motorsport’s top tier.