I believe many Malaysians do not know who Jazeman Jaafar is. For those who follow local motorsports developments, you will know he is our single seater racing driver. He is also our next best hope to get into Formula One.
Jazeman began racing at the early age of 6 in go-karts before moving into Asian Formula Renault 2.0 in 2006 at the age of 13, in which he finished 3rd in championship with 4 podium finishes. The following year is the turning point for him as after he was given International License in special conditions, he took the Formula BMW Asia driver’s championship with 10 wins and 16 podium finishes. Very impressive, whereas many 14-year-olds in Malaysia only ride motorcycles illegally in their neighborhood to woo girls.
After 2 years in Formula BMW Europe with a 2 podium wins (open wheel racing in Europe is extremely tough), he was signed by renowned British team, Carlin, to race the British Formula 3 championship. Backed by Malaysian petroleum giant Petronas, he did reasonably well in his rookie year with 2 podium positions and placed 12th in the driver’s standing.
The British Formula 3 is perhaps one of the toughest junior open wheel series in the world with many young and talented drivers’ skills and strength tested before one can successfully to move into Formula One. Famous graduates including legend Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and many former champions from this series were offered as test/reserve drivers in Formula One teams.
This year, Jazeman stays with Carlin and on a recent test during the pre F3 season in Silverstone, he emerged the fastest among 19 drivers, with his team mates took the top 3 positions. Jazeman is indeed a driver to look at, seeing that he gained reasonable experience in his rookie years. With a good team, solid backing from Petronas and competitive team mates, he will strive to perform better, hoping to impress other Malaysia backed F1 teams like Mercedes, Renault Lotus and Team Lotus. However, a stint in GP2 series (the feeder series for F1) is most likely in near future.
While Alex Yoong has tried and failed (miserably), and current hope Fairuz Fauzy is not up to F1 driver’s level, Jazeman is Malaysia’s best hope to fly the “Jalur Gemiliang” flag in F1 racing. That is why I highly respect this young chap. Let’s wish him all the best for his future racing career!