Maini not ready to test F1 car this season, says Haas team boss

According to the Haas team principal, having Maini on board was a win-win for both his team and the youngster but the 19-year-old is still too young for a F1 car.

Arjun Maini at the Haas F1 Team Headquarters. The 19-year-old Indian is a developmental driver alongside 18-year-old American Santino Ferrucci.   -  Special Arrangement

Indian teenager Arjun Maini has a long way to go before he gets a chance to test a Formula One car, confirmed the US-owned Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner.

The 19-year-old Maini has joined the Haas F1 team as a development driver, alongside 18-year-old American Santino Ferrucci, but he will not get his ‘big break’ this season.

“We looked at Arjun back then and we were convinced that he has the talent. Getting him into a F1 car would attract good publicity but it won’t help him at this stage of his career. He is still too young for it,” Steiner told PTI here on Thursday.

Steiner said having Maini on board was a win-win for both his team and the youngster but he would have to wait to realise his F1 dream.

“Let him focus on GP3 and we will see where we reach at the end of the year. He was in the simulator for the first time this month, so we will take it step by step. Getting into a F1 car when he is doing GP3 doesn’t really help a lot. Both cars are very different to drive,” he said.

Maini is currently ninth in the GP3 standings with the highlight of his season so far being the win in the sprint race at Barcelona.

Steiner feels the Indian needs more time in the F1 feeder series, be it GP3, F2 of F3. “We can always put him in the car when he is ready to take the next step, F2 or something similar which gets him closer to F1. As I said, it will be good publicity if he drives a F1 car right now but it doesn’t develop him as a driver.

“So we are not thinking about the publicity but are more interested in finding the next Indian driver in F1,” he said.

Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok are the only two Indians who have reached the pinnacle of motor racing. Chandhok now happens to be Maini’s manager and played a big role in facilitating the Haas deal.

For Haas, association with an Indian provides it with an opportunity to create a fan base in a huge market like India. “India is more than a billion people, it is a huge market. The Grand Prix there went away for the reasons unknown. But F1 needs representation from countries like India and China. There could a big fan base for the sport and that is what we are trying to do,” said Steiner.

Haas is only into its second season in Formula 1 and is currently fighting a fierce battle in the midfield. Force India is the sole midfield squad, sitting comfortably in the fourth spot.

“We want to finish as high as possible but in the current scenario, we could finish fifth and we could also finish ninth. That is how competitive midfield is and every week is a new challenge,” the team boss added.

Haas is placed seventh on 35 points, one more than eighth-placed Renault. Williams is fifth on 55 and Toro Rosso sixth on 40 points.

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