Jazeman Jaafar is not a new name to Malaysian motorsport. He hasn’t only taken Malaysia by storm at a very young age, he also shook up the international racing scene when he was granted a dispensation to be issued a Class C international racing license at just 14 years old, one year younger than the permitted age.
Malaysians were astonished when they found out that Jazeman was taking the top step of numerous podiums before he was even allowed to drive a road car. Today a 19-year old Jazeman is shaking up the British Formula 3 race series by being among the youngest on the grid but also one of the most focused and talented young drivers.
He started racing at the tender age of six and took his first win at just eight years old. Soon he was competing in Asian level go-kart races and was chalking up the trophies. “My first victory came when I was only eight years old, despite being years younger than many of my rivals. I went on to secure more wins after that, and had to move on to bigger things but I was too young for a racing license, but I got it anyway.”
Jazeman’s father, Dato’ Jaafar Abdul Hamid commends his son’s former school for his son’s accomplishments.
Speaking at a recent interview, Dato’ Jaafar said about Jazeman’s early education, “One of the reasons behind Jazeman’s success was his school. He had the opportunity to go to school at Sri Chempaka and the school understood Jazeman’s ambition when he was as young as 7 – 8 years old. The principal gave Jazeman so much encouragement.”
“I as a father could work out what was best for Jazeman. Sometimes he needed to be away from school for a week which means he would miss his work for a week. But the school cooperated with me; I would make sure that Jazeman would finish his homework, which is a must. Like that Jazeman always knew education was very important to him as well.”
“Jazeman was lucky that way. I spent a lot of time at the school explaining to the school about his talent. And I do not regret it one bit, I look at Jazeman now and I think about him when he was 6, his hunger and passion is still the same, so i don’t regret making the decision to let him race.”
As Jazeman’s talent grew, he was taking wins at up to 25 seconds faster than his next closest competitor on track and this only meant one thing, racing in a more competitive series in Europe.
“Racing in Europe, the level of competition is very very high, and it’s like racing with 10 other Jazeman’s. British Formula 3 has produced loads of Formula 1 drivers and World Champions in the past. So finishing in the top ten in every practise, qualifying session and race is where I need to be.”
His father duly pointed out that when Jazeman was racing in Formula BMW, the gap between the first, second and third driver was about a second. But in Europe, Jazeman has to race against 18 cars that are within one second of each other. Such is the level of competitiveness.
But it wasn’t exactly a bed of roses for the rising Malaysian star, with his racing getting in the way of his education, something had to give. Jazeman approached his father one day and spoke honestly saying “dad, I can’t do both at the same time, you have to help me decide.” And because of his obvious talent, hunger and passion, the family decided to give 100 per cent to Jazeman’s racing career.
And Jazeman has rewarded his father’s fate in him by bringing home impressive results even in Europe. Jazeman raced in the British Formula 3 series throughout the 2011 season and finished sixth in the overall standings with Team Carlin. His accomplishments for 2011 include four podiums, 18 top five finishes and 23 top 10 finishes with only one non-finish. An absolutely amazing accomplishment for a 19 year old.
Jazeman credits national petroleum firm Petronas with his rise to Europe, “without Petronas I wouldn’t be racing at the top. Now that I am based in Europe, I also spend time with the Mercedes AMG F1 team; I go to Grand Prix’s every year just to watch and listen to the team and learn. I listen to how the drivers communicate. Petronas opened up more doors for me, it helps me with my learning, and it helps me in Formula 3.
When asked about his future ambitions the racer says he has always wanted to race in Formula 1 since he started racing at six years old, specifically he wants to race with Team Petronas Mercedes AMG.
“But I’m still 19 and have a long way to go, I rather take a step up when I’m ready. Even on the first day when I drove a F3 car it was not as easy as people think it is. You do longer runs in cars that are more technical, the tyres work differently and it’s more fragile. As for Formula 1, I would rather take one step at a time and move up the ladder.”
All of us here at TopGear wish Jazeman the best for 2012 and his future.