Vijay Mallya’s unceremonious exit from Force India has jeopardised the future of India’s biggest Formula 1 hope Jehan Daruvala.
Nineteen-year-old Daruvala, a product of the Force India Academy, was expected to get his big break with the Silverstone squad later in his fledgeling career but now that has become highly unlikely after Mallya was forced to let go of the team’s ownership.
Force India, who was put into administration in July due to financial troubles, overcame the difficult period last month, when it got the backing of a consortium of investors led by Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll.
Daruvala is into his second year of European Formula 3 and is lying in 10th spot with 117.5 points. He showed what he can do at Spa in July, when he won the opening race from pole position. But since then, he has had a lean run and needs to do much more for F1 teams to take notice.
In the current scenario, what also goes against him is his longtime association with Force India.
“Only Vijay (Mallya) and Bob (Fernley) used to track his performance in the junior series but they both are not part of the team anymore. On paper, he is still with Force India but who knows about next year with all the changes that have taken place in the management,” a source in the F1 paddock told PTI on Thursday.
After Mallya ceded ownership of the team, his longtime aide and deputy team principal, Fernley, stepped down. Otmar Szafnauer, who was earlier COO, has been made the new team boss.
A name change is very much on the cards for the next season besides the inclusion of Williams driver Lance, who happens to be the son of co-owner Lawrence Stroll.
“All these years, the other F1 teams never really tracked Jehan as he was a Force India prot g . But now with Mallya gone, it has left him in a difficult spot,” said a former Formula 1 driver requesting anonymity.
“Another thing going against him is his performance in his second F3 season. He is winning an odd race here and there but that is not going to get you the eyeballs. You have to be in the top-3 to attract attention of F1 teams,” he added.
Arjun Maini, who is having a difficult year in Formula 2, is also seen as a Formula 1 prospect from India. But he too has not done enough to get a test drive at Haas, where he has been a development driver since 2017.
The last Indian to race in Formula 1 was Narain Karthikeyan, who drove for the now defunct HRT in 2012. The only other Indian who has reached the pinnacle of motorsport is Karun Chandhok. He is now a popular pundit in the F1 paddock.