Road to F1 has become tougher, says Maini after shock sports car switch

Indian racer Arjun Maini will be doing a full season of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) besides making his debut in the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans.

File Photo: Arjun Maini, Kush’s elder brother, at the Haas F1 Team Headquarters in May 2017.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Indian driver Arjun Maini’s road to Formula 1 has become tougher with his shock switch to sports car racing but he says it is a matter of time before he is back in a single seater series to pursue his “ultimate dream“.

The 21-year-old from Bengaluru announced his switch to endurance racing last week and will be doing a full season of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) besides making his debut in the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The move was unexpected to say the least as he was trying to find his feet in the world of single seater racing including F2 and F3, which are considered as feeder series to Formula 1.

“To be honest, I wanted to remain in single seaters but there were not many good options for 2019. A full season of endurance racing and the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans is what I have in hand and I am looking forward to this new challenge. Having said that, reaching Formula 1 remains the ultimate dream,” Maini told PTI.

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After an underwhelming F2 season last year when he felt let down by his own team, Trident, Maini could not secure a drive with another outfit for the following season. He also tested for Team Le Mans in the highly competitive Super Formula in Japan but, by his own admission, did not do enough to seal a seat.

“I reached Suzuka the night before the test and when you don’t know the circuit that well, you need some time to get up to speed. The team had already finalised its drivers so there was not much I could do anyway.

“I realised how competitive the racing scene is in Japan and you have to really stand out amongst a high quality of drivers,” said Maini, who was also a development driver with Haas F1 Team for the past two seasons but did not get a test drive.

He and Jehan Daruvala are seen as Formula 1 hopefuls from India, a country which has so far produced only two Grand Prix drivers in Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok.

The 20-year-old Daruvala, who won two races in the Euro F3 over the previous two seasons, has joined Prema Racing in 2019 for the all-new F3.

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While Daruvala too has not been able to attract attention of Formula 1 teams, Maini feels his contemporary has been wiser with career choices.

“He has definitely been more clever, has done the right things at the right time. Looking back, I feel I should not have rushed into F3 after finishing second in British F4 back in 2014. May be I was better off doing Formula Renault 2.0 before moving up to F3,” said Maini.

He says there is no point being an also-ran in F2 or F3 and “you must finish in the top three” to attract attention of Formula 1 teams.

Considering that the ELMS has only six rounds, Maini is exploring limited single seater opportunities, including another appearance at the Macau Grand Prix.