Jaafar enjoyed a strong, very successful third season in the British F3 International Series, and was a front-runner right from the first race of the championship through to the finale. Amassing a creditable 306 points, the record books will show three wins, 15 podiums and 21 top five finishes for Jaafar from the 29 races which were run in the British F3 championship this year.
What was the biggest challenge for you this season?
I think it was coping with the determination to finish in the top three in every race I competed in. It was my third year of British F3 and I knew I had to finish each race with at least 10 points – and the more the better – if I was to be in contention for the championship title. The pressure to do well came from within me and containing that pressure, while also using it to positive effect, was really important.
From a championship perspective, my biggest challenge was my rivals for the title. At the outset I thought it would be my team mates, and it was, but after a few races Fortec driver, Felix Serralles, began to show he had the car and the skills to take the fight to us, so that spiced things up even more.
What was the highlight of the season?
I think there were a few. Hearing the Negaraku in Pau when I took my first British F3 win will stay with me as a very special memory for many years to come. It took a while, but once I’d ‘broken my duck’ as they say in the UK, then I didn’t have to wait long for the next one, which was at Rockingham Motor Speedway. Being invited to be a British Racing Drivers Club Rising Star was a real achievement which was also a highlight. I’m the first Asian driver to have been granted this status, so I was really proud when I received the news from the BRDC. At the end of the season I was voted Master of the Year, which was another achievement which was very unexpected and when I collected that trophy along with my Vice-Champion’s trophy at the end of season awards ceremony it was a fantastic end to an outstanding year.
How do you cope with the pressures of being an elite motorsport athlete?
I don’t feel that there is any pressure specifically as a motor racing driver, but there is an intensity to the job which means that your life is totally consumed with motor racing. There are no days which I don’t think about racing or I’m not doing something connected with it, whether that’s training, media commitments, sponsor meetings or visiting the team HQ.
Racing at this level demands total commitment and I need to be very focussed if I’m going to succeed in my goal of reaching Formula 1. If I’m not in a racing car, then I’m usually to be found training. I have a very strict fitness programme which varies depending on the time of year. During the racing season I’ll have a different regime than during the winter months. When I’m racing I have to balance conserving energy for racing with peak fitness, while in the off-season I can step up the level to increase my fitness level further and have a programme which is designed to take me to my peak when I’m back out racing.
How do you stay focused and committed?
It’s not difficult, as I know that this is what is needed to succeed. I know that I am very fortunate to be able to follow my dream, but if I don’t perform to my best ability and show improvement each year then I know that I would put this in jeopardy. Motor racing is an expensive sport and the support I receive from PETRONAS is vital for me to continue in it and I want to repay the company’s faith in me with the level of results that they want to see and that they need as a return for their investment in me. But there is no hardship at all for me, I absolutely love racing, so I’ll train, go to meetings, attend media interviews, and so on, just to be able to do it – whatever it takes for me to go racing I’ll do!
What are your plans for 2013?
After three years of racing in British F3, where I’ve improved each season, from finishing 12th in the championship in my first year, sixth in the second season and then runner-up this year, it’s definitely time to move onwards and upwards. Exactly where this will be is not confirmed yet, but I’m expecting to announce my plans very soon. So stay tuned!
Whichever series I’ll be racing in it will be a step up from British F3, which means a new learning curve, with a more powerful, more technical car, which will be very exciting, as well as giving me a whole new challenge. As I’ve matured in F3 I’ve grown more confident and comfortable in the racing environment, and now I’ll be a rookie again with all that this brings with it. As someone who just loves being in a race car, all I want now is for the European winter to be over as quickly as possible (I’ll never get used to the cold, ice, snow, sub-zero temperatures..) so that I can be on a track somewhere blowing away the cobwebs of the off-season and preparing for another year of racing. Roll on 2013!