As a racing driver, Jehan Daruvala is used to seizing opportunities, and in 2024, will line up in Maserati MSG Racing’s colours as the only rookie on the Season 10 Formula E grid.
His arrival in Formula E is not just the next chapter. It represents a new strand in history.
At the 2024 Mexico City E-Prix, Jehan will become only the third Indian driver to race in World Championship single-seater motorsport.
The most recent driver to do it was Narain Karthikeyan in Formula One in 2012. Before him, it was Karun Chandhok in 2011. Chandhok remains as the only Indian to participate in a Formula E race.
But things are changing, and this season, Jehan is waving the banner for the next generation and with his flag held high, he is also carrying the hopes of a nation. The hope of India.
Like many aspiring racing drivers, Jehan’s career started in karting, but it was through former F1 team, Force India’s, One in a Billion initiative that he found his big break.
“I was racing go-karts when Force India launched One in a Billion, which was an initiative to take an Indian driver from go-karts to Formula One. But the ironic thing is that I was too young to enter the competition at the time,” says Jehan.
“Drivers had to be aged between 14 and 18, and I was 13, and only the top 100 would qualify for the next round. But luckily an exception was made, with 98 people progressing alongside one person aged below 14, and another above the age of 18.
“The first stage was a shootout across India, and I set the fastest time in my group by one-hundredth of a second. That one-hundredth changed my life.
“I was in the top 100, then advanced to the round of 50, and then the round of 10, and Force India flew the final 10 to England for a one-week PR, fitness, and racing camp and three of us were chosen to join their junior program – me, Arjun Maini, and Tarun Reddy.
“At 13, I had to make the very difficult decision to leave home so I could race and study in England. It definitely wasn’t easy. I’m a family guy and I like being at home, so at such a young age, it was sometimes hard.
“I spent most of my time racing, and then 30% at school, so between that, a lot of my time was spent catching up and studying in airports and on flights.
“But I chose to sacrifice those other parts of my life because I love racing, and I have zero regrets. Even though it’s been hard at times, I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.”
Jehan’s rise in motorsport coincided with Formula One’s Indian Grand Prix, held from 2011-2013, but despite India facing a lack of representation on most grids, the 25-year-old has found that the sport is becoming increasingly popular in his home country.
“Motorsport is becoming more popular in India, and more people are starting to watch it and have an interest in it,” continues Jehan.
“I think shows like Drive to Survive on Netflix are making motorsport more popular, and then we had the Hyderabad E-Prix this year and then MotoGP held the Indian Grand Prix only a few weeks ago.
“There are 1.5 billion people at home, and it’s a massive audience with huge potential, but unfortunately, there aren’t too many people back home who choose to take it up as a career.
“It’s a very expensive sport to compete in, and to take it up, you need to be willing to give up almost everything and that’s not easy from a parent’s point of view as well.
“I was very fortunate that my parents always encouraged me to do what I love, they supported me, and they backed my decisions which made it easier for me.”
With this in mind, Jehan is relishing his journey in the world’s most unpredictable racing series, but by competing in Formula E, the 25-year-old hopes that he can encourage tomorrow’s generation to pursue opportunities in motorsport.
“Joining Maserati MSG Racing is massive for me, and only being the third Indian driver to race in World Championship single-seaters is very humbling.
“I can’t thank everyone who gave me this chance enough. Formula E is a big stage with big brands, respected manufacturers, and world-class drivers, so to be a part of the grid in Season 10 is a big achievement.
“Being the only Indian driver currently competing in World Championship motorsport does bring a bit of pressure, but I’m a racer. I’m here to compete and I’m here to do well.
“I want to show the people back home that we’re good enough to be here. That with the right facilities, the right education, and the right opportunities, we are good enough to compete against the best people in the world.
“By representing India globally, I hope that I can encourage more young people to take up this sport in the future. I can’t wait to get started.”