Indian’s Jehan Daruvala to test drive in McLaren’s 2021 F1 car at Silverstone

Indian racer Jehan Daruvala will take part in his first Formula One test drive, turning up for the McLaren F1 team this week at the Silverstone circuit in the UK.

The test will see the 23-year-old drive McLaren’s 2021 Formula One car, MCL35M on June 21 and 22.

Daruvala currently races for Prema Racing in Formula 2 and is placed third in the championship as things stand.

“Testing in Formula 1 is extremely limited and opportunities like these are not easy to come by, especially with a championship-winning team like McLaren. It will be my first experience in a Formula 1 car, which I’m sure will be special,” Daruvala told a group of reporters during an interaction on Monday.

The test will not only provide Daruvala the experience of driving an F1 car but also, crucially, get F1 teams to potentially take notice of him ahead of the 2023 season. The Indian also made it clear that this wasn’t directly related to driving in F1 next year, but rather a chance to learn about a F1 car and its characteristics and find its limits.

“The main goal for me at the test is to learn. It is tempting to go flat out at the beginning but we have a program to run through. I have to learn the car and its characteristics and from there I can just crack on,” he said.

“There are not many openings in Formula 1 but I have got the opportunity to test the F1 car and I want to make an impression. If I do get an opportunity to drive in F1 then I just want to be ready, tick all the boxes to, hopefully, get a seat.”

Ahead of his test, Daruvala said that he has been putting in the hours at the simulator as well as undergoing extensive training sessions to strengthen his neck.

Race car drivers experience high gravitational pull (colloquially known as Gs) caused due to rapid acceleration, braking and cornering which necessitates strengthening their neck and shoulder muscles.

“We go through at a lot of Gs while racing. I haven’t experienced the Gs in F1 yet and that’s the biggest step up from Formula 2. I have driven cars for a long time and I am very fit but I want to make sure that I am ready to drive an F1 car. I have been training my neck more than I normally do for the past few weeks,” he said.

Daruvala is one of five Formula 2 drivers in the Red Bull Junior Team program and the Mumbai youngster said that the F1 team has given him its blessings for the test despite it being a competitor in McLaren.

“The opportunity came about after we learned that McLaren were holding testing programs to look at young drivers. My dad and I had a conversation with Dr Helmut Marko (Red Bull Racing team advisor) about the opportunity and he was more than happy for me to take it as you don’t get too many opportunities to drive an F1 car. I am 100% still committed to the Red Bull team,” he said.

Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok are the two Indians to have driven in the Formula One so far.

Daruvala is enjoying a good season in Formula 2 so far and is third in the drivers’ standings and a title run can further bolster his chances of gaining an F1 seat in 2023. He also spoke about being open to the possibility of being a reserve driver in the F1 circuit next season, as perhaps the next best option if a racing slot doesn’t open up. But that is a decision to be taken at the end of the current season. For now, this test drive and rest of F2 season remains the focus.

“My goal is to get a seat in 2023 but the likelihood of seats opening is small, so I want to finish off this season in F2 very well. Hopefully, we will be fighting for the championship all the way till Abu Dhabi. I obviously don’t know if there will be any openings next year but I want to do enough so that my name is out there to get a seat in the future,” he said.

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