Force India protege Jehan Daruvala will graduate to the European Formula 3 championship for the 2017 season, and will also return to the Toyota Racing Series.
The Indian competed in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 2.0 NEC with the Josef Kaufmann Racing team in the 2016 season, ending up ninth and fourth respectively.
For the next season, the Mumbai-based driver has chosen the F3 series over GP3, having tested with various F3 teams over the winter.
"I can confirm that I will be doing F3 in 2017," Daruvala told Motorsport.com. "I have had a few tests in the F3 car and have loved the feeling of the extra grip and downforce.
"It tends to suit my driving style and I am looking forward to being a part of an excellent championship. The decision with which team I'll race in F3 will be announced very soon.
"I missed two weeks of winter testing due to a viral infection. Hence, I will need to maximise the few days of F3 testing that I get and will [therefore] skip the [Abu Dhabi] GP3 test.
"And yes, I will be doing the TRS again with M2 Competition. I enjoyed the series in 2016."
"It is an excellent series to do in the winter and will help me gain more experience before a big step up to F3 next year."
Results in 2016 "not up to my expectations" - Q&A
So, how would you sum up your season both in the NEC and Eurocup. Results-wise, they probably not as high you would have wanted?
After having finished fifth in NEC last year and four podiums in Europe in my first year of single-seaters, I was very confident going into the 2016 season.
Yes, the results have definitely not been up to my expectations. I was definitely hoping for many more podiums and wins and to finish much higher in the championship standings than fourth & ninth respectively with one win and four podiums in NEC and the lone podium in Eurocup.
You seem to have started off well in NEC and were genuinely in contention for the title - what went wrong afterwards? And what happened in the Eurocup?
In the NEC, right till the last round at Hockenheim, I was in very close contention for second. However, after the crash in FP1, things went downhill. The team worked hard to resolve the issues and it worked smoothly in FP2.
However, in qualifying, my actuator spring broke and the gears were getting stuck, meaning I was thrown to the back of the field for a weekend having three races. It pretty much ended my challenge but despite that we missed third by just three points.
Meanwhile, the Monza weekend in the Eurocup put me back, I had excellent speed but an issue in qualifying and then a misjudgement in Race 2 under yellow flags caused it to be a forgettable weekend.
The qualifying went bad while I was in the tow of another driver, I went into the gravel as he backed off on his lap, forcing me to take evasive action. Despite that I had good pace to finish seventh in Race 1. Of course, I could have finished even higher but for a mistake I made when I went off track.
In Race 2, I started 11th and was was running fifth when I made a move on Will Palmer to fourth. However since there were double yellow flags being waved, I felt that I had wrongly overtaken him and as I backed off, we collided.
A podium was definitely on but for my mistake - and to make matters worse, due to a technical issue, I was forced to retire from Race 3. So, yes, that weekend was a turning point. However, even if I had a good weekend, I would have ended up higher in the standings but then I was never in the contention for the top spot.
Now with two campaigns done, which areas do you think you improved from 2015 to 2016 and what are the areas where you think you can improve more in future?
In 2015, my starts were very poor. I struggled to get them right but I was much better this year, though there is still scope for improvement.
Overall, I think I need to improve in every area as I am still on a steep learning curve with only two years of single-seater racing. However if I had to pick up two areas where I would like to substantially improve...
My driving in the wet needs to improve, especially driving on slicks on a damp track. Somehow in my two years of testing and racing, there have been very few wet tests days/races and I have not had the opportunity to work intensely on this aspect of my driving.
Also, when I have a bad qualifying and I am trying to make my way up through the pack in the races, I tend to presume that the driver in the mid-pack will drive in a similar manner to the guys in front.
Naturally, this does not happen and has led to a few unnecessary tangles which has cost me dearly. I will have to adapt my driving to make sure that I get past drivers in the mid-pack and ensure that I avoid an incident with them.
Your one-lap pace seems all set, do you think you have more to do in the races? And what do you make of some of the crashes and incidents you've had in the season?
I feel that my race pace is fine. However, as a team we did struggle with race pace on a few tracks. Somehow we qualified well but during the race, our tyres went off much quicker than the other teams.
So all three [Daruvala and teammates Lando Norris and Robert Shwartzman] of us struggled in those races trying to hold back drivers who were lapping half a second faster than us.
All my crashes were when I was fighting from the back or in the mid-pack, I never had issues with the drivers in the front. But yes, I could have done things differently to avoid some of them.
Overall, would you be happy with P4 and P9 in the respective standings - with six podiums and a lone win across two series? Or there was more for the taking?
I am definitely not happy with the results in 2016. Lando [Norris, NEC and Eurocup champion] was very quick right through the year, on all tracks and in all conditions. However, I felt that with the pace I had shown in FP and qualifying, I should have been fighting for top three in the championship.
Hence finishing fourth and ninth was definitely very disappointing. The number of podiums and wins, too, was not up to my expectations. So I will be putting in a huge effort over the winter to up my game for next year.
What can you say of the support from Force India?
I have all the support I need from SFI. In the junior series, they would not have too much of a direct role to play. However, they play an important role in guiding me on the series I should be driving, selection of the team, driver coach, etc. Beside that they help me work on my nutrition and fitness programme.
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