Jehan Daruvala is one of the most exciting motor racing talents in the country at the moment.
He is the only Indian driver in Formula 2, a feeder series for Formula 1, and is currently in his third season in the championship.
Even though the popular perception is that motor sport is more about machine than human, it is a physically demanding pursuit. Drivers’ weight is calibrated almost to the last few grams to get them ready for peak performance. They also have to work on their endurance to maintain strength and focus for an hour-long race in uncomfortably hot cockpits while going at break-neck speeds.
Here Jehan speaks in detail about the diet he has to follow in order to stay at peak fitness for his sport.
Getting in the right mindset
Rest and relaxation are the keys to get Jehan into the right racing zone.
“A lot of people struggle with sleep before race day. I don’t struggle at all,” Jehan says. “I sleep like a baby, as soon as the lights are switched off. I wake up straight in the morning. Obviously pressure does get to me a bit but I can keep my emotions in control a lot.”
The ace Indian driver also works with a mind coach, Louise Keith, to get himself in the right frame of mind before every race weekend.
“Motorsport has a lot of variables, there are many things that are out of your control. As long as you can keep the things you can control in control, that’s where the consistency is possible.”
Rituals before the race
Though Jehan doesn’t have too many superstitions, the one thing he adheres to is to put on noise-cancelling headphones about 30 minutes before the race.
“The kind of music I listen to changes every week,” he says. “Sometimes, when I get a kick of Bollywood, I just play that. I like Spanish music also.
“I put the headphones on mainly because there is so much sound with race cars on track, or people firing up engines in garages. You have 50-60 guests of people around; they want to talk. There’s no quiet at all, it’s just noise in your ears. I listen to music, cut everyone out. That kind of peace is needed before getting into the car and zoning in for my race.”
Favourite healthy meal
At the start of every season, the FIA decides the optimal weight for drivers in the championship based on the average weight of all the drivers put together. For the 2022 F2 season, the optimal weight is 72 kgs. To make sure that he stays around that mark, Jehan follows a proper diet and nutrition plan throughout the season.
“Weight is a big factor in our sport. I carry my weighing scale everywhere; it’s the thing I never forget to pack. That’s always the first thing on my list,” he says.
“When I’m at home, by myself, I make some chicken wraps. I just cook chicken in the oven, mix some vegetables, and make it into a wrap. Living by myself, it’s not easy to cook every meal. So, I just cook in bulk and I eat the same food for a few days.”
When he returns home to Mumbai, his favourite meal is a Parsi staple called, ‘khatti-meethi daal.’
Fuelling up for the race weekend
During a race weekend, Jehan says he could lose up to 3500-4000 calories per day. So he eats well to make sure he replenishes whatever he loses.
“A lot of drivers lose weight on race weekends but I don’t fluctuate a lot because I drink a lot of fluids and eat a lot of food to keep my weight constant,” the 23-year-old says.
“A race weekend, if anything, is the most relaxed in terms of diet. You have the most freedom in terms of eating because you are burning so many calories.
“Pretty much from Friday to Sunday, I only eat carbs and maybe a bit of vegetables here and there. Also, my drink bottle has electrolytes and carbohydrates because somehow on a race weekend I don’t feel very hungry. So even if I’m not eating a lot of food, I make sure I get the nutrients through my drink.”
Since drivers spend a lot of time on the track during the race weekend, they depend on the hospitality at the venue to take care of most of their meals. Though they don’t have a big spread to choose from, they have staples like pizza and pasta.
How many hours before the race does he eat?
Jehan eats his pre-race meal at least two-and-a-half hours before he has to get onto the starting grid.
“If I’m racing at 5pm, I eat lunch by 1:30-2pm and then I may have a snack at 3:30pm. But not a lot. But if I have a race in the morning, like at 10:30am, I’ll eat breakfast at 7am,” he says.
The Indian says that though the drivers have a choice to have fluids during the race, they choose not to. He usually takes his fluid intake before the race.
“I carry a drink bottle wherever I go; paddock, garage, track, etc. So I keep sipping from that and sometimes drink more than I should. I also do warm-up exercises before a race. Just like reactions, warming up my neck just to make sure I’m ready for the start of the race. Once you are in the car, for over an hour you don’t have a drink or food. You need to be able to concentrate. When you eat well, you are happier and you drive better as well.”
Favourite cheat meal
Though Jehan usually sticks to healthy food, he treats himself every now and then.
“When I’m abroad, my cheat meal is a burger from Five Guys or Shake Shack,” he says. “They are really greasy and full of cheese. I go there once or twice a month. If I have a very good race weekend then I have a burger; if I have a very bad race weekend, I also have a burger.
“I basically eat what I like because I don’t eat a lot of unhealthy food anyway. I eat at home all the time. Parsi food is not the healthiest but it’s not unhealthy either. It’s usually rice, daal and some vegetables. It’s just about portion control. So I serve myself just one plate of food and avoid eating to feel full. The first two days that I’m back home in Mumbai, I do eat a lot but then I control myself.”
When does Jehan have Red Bull
“I usually drink it after the race,” he says. “I usually have just a few sips, just to get a kick. Or if I’m on the podium, to celebrate.”