Sweet reward for Arjun Maini

For the 19-year old Arjun Maini, Thursday’s announcement is a sweet reward; just not for some consistent results shown across categories, but the ability displayed to come fighting out of tough times.

Arjun Maini at the Haas F1 Team headquarters on Thursday during the announcement of his induction into the driver development program.   -  Special arrangement

For the 19-year old Arjun Maini, Thursday’s announcement is a sweet reward; just not for some consistent results shown across categories, but the ability displayed to come fighting out of tough times.

Read: Haas F1 team signs Arjun Maini as development driver

After winning Force India’s talent-hunt in 2011, Arjun moved to the UK for karting the following year, where he did not have a great season and Jehan Daruvala pipped him to the Force India’s young driver academy.

But Arjun persevered and came back strongly in 2013, finishing runner-up in the JK Racing India Series in his first season in formula cars. His first big moment, though, came in the 2014 BRDC F4 championship which he lead until the final round only to lose out by just three points.

Commenting on his journey over the last five years, Arjun called it “a bumpy ride” with highs and lows.

“I had some good times in karts before taking to cars. The BRDC F4 was great, though I am still disappointed that I lost the title and the Toyota Racing series in New Zealand was very good with a few wins.”

However, the high of 2014 did not last long, and 2015 was a tough year for him as he finished 18 in the FIA European F3 championship — where there were flashes of pace though.

This prompted a team change for 2016, but with just two points from four rounds, the season was heading nowhere and something drastic needed to be done.

“The plan was to do F3 for 2016 but it was a bit more disappointing and there were lot of things out of our control. I had belief in myself and learnt a lot of lessons right from my karting days. So I just needed to stay at my best so that when an opportunity comes, I could make it count.”

That was when a last minute call-up from Jenzer Motorsport materialised for the GP3 season from the third round at Silverstone. With no testing, Arjun qualified fourth in his first outing and finished the season tenth in the standings despite missing the first two rounds. He scored 50 of the team’s 68 points including a podium in Hungary.

Arjun’s father Gautam Maini, who has played a vital role in his career said: “Even though he was doing well as a driver, the nature of the championship in F3 meant, the team’s role mattered a lot and we could not get the right package.”

“However with GP3, cars are more even and it allows a driver to show what he is capable of. We knew he is a quick learner who can adapt quickly to new cars or tracks and saw this as an opportunity.”

Another advantage of doing well in GP3 is that with most races held as support races to the F1 race, it is a good chance to showcase one’s talent to the F1 teams.

It helps that Arjun’s younger brother Kush Maini is also an upcoming racer, currently plying in the Italian F4 championship. “It is great help that my brother is also into racing as we keep pushing each other, be it in sims or gyms.”

While the F1 tie-up holds him in good stead, both father and son are cautious about not getting ahead of themselves. “It feels great to be a part of a F1 team but our main focus is to do well in GP3 and hope to use the experience of working with Haas to help me in GP3. So I am not looking too far ahead,” said Arjun.

Gautam added: “This is just the first step but it comes with a bigger responsibility as the F1 teams are keeping a watchful eye. In motorsport, things can change quickly.”

It is now five years since Narain Karthikyean flew the Indian flag on the F1 grid. But for now, this development seen along with Daruvala’s good show so far in the F3 championship, offers many a hope for Indian motorsports that a third F1 driver is not far away.

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