It was a surprise to see PREMA Racing underperform by their own high standards in the opening two Qualifying sessions of the year, but Jehan Daruvala has insisted that “it isn’t as bad as it looks on paper,” with the Red Bull junior backing his team to turn it around at Imola.

Daruvala qualified seventh at Sakhir and 14th at Jeddah but has still managed to take two podiums so far, with the team’s race pace expectedly strong.

Outlining the reasons for their struggles on a Friday in Rounds 1 and 2, the Red Bull junior is confident they already have the one-lap pace to match their long-run speed, without having to make any changes.

He said: “In Bahrain, we tried a different Qualifying strategy, so in the end, it was just messy in terms of our warm-up. Then in Jeddah, I didn't have a chance because I had an issue with my car.

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Daruvala has just finished testing in Barcelona for three days
Daruvala has just finished testing in Barcelona for three days

“I think that our qualifying pace is actually quite strong. We just haven't had a chance to show it. It is not so much that we need to improve the car, we just need everything to come together, and on my side, to cut out any mistakes, and I am sure that we will qualify at the front.

“I am quite confident that if we sort out Qualifying, then we can be fighting for more podiums and more wins. In the end, the Championship is long, so I am not looking at where I stand right now.”

The Red Bull junior put on a brilliant performance in the Saudi Arabian Feature Race, battling to third from 14th, for his second podium in as many rounds.

For Daruvala, it was proof not only of PREMA’s pace but of their ability to secure a result no matter where they line up.

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Daruvala has two podiums from the first four races
Daruvala has two podiums from the first four races

“It was a big confidence boost.,” he said. “Friday night, I was in a bad place, just because of the way I qualified - I was one and half second off and I was really confused. In the end, I was glad that there was something wrong.

“We cannot quantify the amount of potential that we lost, but the pace we showed on Sunday gave me a lot of confidence. It also shows that wherever we qualify, we can still move forwards.”

The result in Jeddah has Daruvala sixth in the standings, level on points with fifth-placed Théo Pourchaire ahead of the European leg of the season.

Having just finished three days of testing at Barcelona, Daruvala expects the additional track time to prove pivotal in the remaining rounds, despite experiencing mixed conditions in Spain.

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Daruvala is sixth in the standings level on points with fifth-placed Théo Pourchaire
Daruvala is sixth in the standings, level on points with fifth-placed Théo Pourchaire

“We encounter different conditions all year and we do not get a lot of testing, so the more time we get on the track, the better it is for us,” he explained. “We race here in a few weeks, so the more we learn, the more useful it will be.

“I am quite looking forward to going back to some of the tracks we didn't go to last year and some new tracks for F2 as well. It will be nice to be back racing in Europe. I am sure that if we qualify at the front, then we’ll be fighting for not only podiums but also quite a few race wins.

“The main thing is to keep feeling comfortable and to improve Qualifying and I am sure that we can have more podiums.”