Indian driver Kush Maini moved closer to his dream of reaching Formula One after the Alpine F1 team signed him for their young driver programme.
The 23-year-old is competing in his maiden season in Formula 2 with Campos Racing and has been one of the most impressive rookies on the grid. Though he has only one podium to his name, he has shown flashes of brilliance, like qualifying second at Silverstone.
“Just to be with a professional team at the top level of motorsport is an invaluable experience. The chance to speak with engineers and be on the simulator; you learn a lot by spending just one day at an F1 factory. But at the end of the day, you have to perform in F2. Once you do well, that road to drive an F1 car like a young driver test or a session in Free Practice 1 is easier as there is a path,” said Kush in an interaction with Sportstar.
For a driver who almost quit racing two years ago as the budgets dried up during the pandemic, the vote of confidence from Alpine F1 has come as a shot in the arm. Recently, former two-time F1 champion Mika Hakkinen came on board as his mentor and will guide the Indian.
“I think it has been a long journey, and the last few years were tough, as many of my drives fell through in 2020 and 2021. If you had told me two years ago that I would be in F2, have an affiliation with an F1 team, with Mika in my corner, I would have said you were joking. But now we are at the last step, and I can smell F1, but it will take a lot of work to get there,” he added.
Opening up on his challenging journey, the racer from Bengaluru said, “In 2021, I didn’t race all year. We didn’t have the money, and I was mentally down and ready to quit. But the lessons I have learnt in that time are invaluable. I am a calm-minded driver and know how to deal with failure.”
A two-year break is probably a death knell for a driver coming up the ranks if they aspire to be at the top level of motorsports. Besides missing out on opportunities, much valuable learning is lost when one can ill-afford and lose momentum.
“In motorsport, if you stand still, you go backwards. It is huge if you are not competing at the top level. I was to do F3 in 2020 and ended up doing it in 2022. When I returned to Bahrain last year, I qualified third but made the stupid mistake of missing the weighbridge. You are rusty and out of it, while young kids do two or three championships in a year. I may be one of the oldest on the grid but the least experienced, so my path has been unconventional,” he explained.
READ MORE: Kush Maini impresses on Formula 2 debut
Speaking about his season so far in F2, Kush, who is 12th in the standings, felt he has shown good pace in qualifying but was candid enough to admit that there are many areas to improve, including the race pace.
“Personally and as a team, our race pace has not been as strong as in qualifying, and we need to improve. The F2 cars have carbon brakes, and the brake bias is a sensitive tool, which wasn’t the case in other formulas I have driven, and I should have been more on it,” he said.
“For example, in Bahrain, you want to protect your rear tyres and not lock it up under braking. So you move your brake bias forward, but if you do it too much, your rear brakes get too cold, and you end up locking it anyway. This I struggled with for sure.”
“The target for next year is to make fewer mistakes, be consistent and improve my race understanding,” said Kush as he signed off.
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