Arjun Maini becomes first Indian to win GP3 race

The 19-year old Bengaluru driver, who on Thursday was announced as a development driver for Haas F1 team, scored his first win in two years, finishing six seconds ahead of Frenchman Dorian Boccolacci and teammate Alessio Lorandi of Italy.

Arjun, who had a tough race in the feature race on Saturday finishing seventh, started from second in the reverse grid sprint race. The Indian immediately took the lead on the opening lap passing pole-sitter Raoul Hyman.   -  Special Arrangement

India’s Arjun Maini created history becoming the first Indian driver to win a GP3 race when he won the sprint race on Sunday.

The 19-year old Bengaluru driver, who on Thursday was announced as a development driver for Haas F1 team, scored his first win in two years, finishing six seconds ahead of Frenchman Dorian Boccolacci and teammate Alessio Lorandi of Italy.

Arjun who had a tough race in the feature race on Saturday finishing seventh, started from second in the reverse grid sprint race. The Indian immediately took the lead on the opening lap passing pole-sitter Raoul Hyman.

Once into the lead, for the first few laps Arjun couldn’t breathe easy as he came under pressure from Boccolacci who tried a few moves to get ahead and the gap between the two was less than a second.

On lap six, Boccolacci passed Arjun into turn one but the Indian fought back and regained the lead into turn two. This proved to be the turning point in the race with the Frenchman losing momentum and by the end of the lap, Arjun had extended his lead to 1.5 seconds.

The Frenchman came under attack from compatriot Anthoine Hubert which gave Arjun a much-needed breathing space.

Over the next seven laps, the Indian got his head down as he extended his lead to 6.2 seconds by the end of lap 13 and was comfortably the fastest man on track.

Speaking to Sportstar, an excited Arjun said, “The moment has still not sunk in yet. I am still pumping and full of adrenaline.”

This was the third time the Indian national anthem played during an F1 weekend, with the first two courtesy mentor Karun Chandhok’s two wins in GP2. “It was incredible with so many emotions and there is just no words to describe. I just want to continue and put the Indian flag on the podium consistently this year,” said the youngster.

“My deepest gratitude to Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner, for having shown faith and trust in me to include me HAAS F1 Team’s development program – an honor that I am still coming to terms with -  I am also grateful and thank Sanjay Sharma from JK Racing and the team at TVS motorsport for having supported me  as a young driver through the last five years.” 

Explaining on how the race unfolded, the 19-year old said, “At the start, it was bit nervy with Boccolacci attacking me but I just kept my cool and importantly kept my tyres safe. So when he made a pass, I could come back immediately and then I just put the hammer down building a lead.”

Arjun said after a tough race one, he was able to make changes overnight to bounce back on Sunday. “In race one, my rear tyres were overheating and I was lacking pace. We studied the data and made some changes. Even my race craft was not upto the mark.”

Unlike races so far in his career, the weekend brought more attention like never before and Arjun credited the role of his mental coach Dr. Shree Advani, a renowned sports psychologist and fitness coach Dr. Vijay. 

“There was a lot of attention post the announcement and speaking to Dr Shree Advani helped me stay focussed and motivated. His help was massive. Dr Vijay has helped with my fitness over the winter and it has paid off”

An elated father, Gautam Maini called it the best race of Arjun’s career saying, “Considering the amount of pressure he was under in with Boccolacci having DRS, that gives you 15-20 km/hr more speed, he drove superbly to defend. It shows he can take the pressure.”

Going ahead with a long break before the next round in Austria, Arjun said that qualifying is an area that he still needs to work on. “I was on a good lap but made a mistake and should have qualified higher than sixth.” 

But there was improvement other areas like starts and wheel-to-wheel racing with Arjun saying the work done over the winter has definitely helped and feels he has improved.

Arjun now stands third in the drivers standings with 21 points, four behind teammate Lorandi and eight behind leader Nirei Fukuzumi. 

 

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos