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Maini takes giant strides towards fulfilling a dream

Bengaluru: Bengaluru’s Kush Maini has had a solid start to life as a Formula 2 driver. The rookie, currently paired with the seasoned Swiss driver Ralph Boschung at Campos Racing, sits 11th in the drivers championship.

Two significant announcements over the past week – first revealing that two-time Formula 1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen will mentor Kush, and then a communication from Formula 1 constructor Alpine that Kush has joined their team’s young driver program – put the Indian racer firmly in the conversation for a potential Formula 1 drive.

For Kush, who almost quit motor racing in 2021 due to a lack of funding, these announcements come as a shot in the arm.

Kush confirmed that he will race for another season in Formula 2, but kept the details of his next step under wraps.

“Formula 1 is the clear goal. I am going to give it everything this last year. The announcement (about the team for 2024-25) will be made as soon as the Abu Dhabi race gets over,”revealed Kush toDH.”I will do another season in F2. We have seen all the teams, the decision was a tough one, but I am sure that the team I have signed with, we can challenge for the title.”

Kush, who began karting at the age of seven, spoke glowingly about working with Hakkinen. “Mika knows what he has gone through to get there, he’s always been my role model. He will be in charge of putting my team together.

“He’s making a team around me to help me focus on my one goal. And that is going to help me drive without any thoughts. He knows what it takes to bring potential out of a young driver and is priceless to have around,” added Kush on the Finn’s role.

Now a part of the Alpine F1 academy, Kush will be pitted against Jack Doohan and Victor Martins, both F2 race winners.

“Alpine have a great academy line-up and proud to be a part of it. It’s daunting and scary, but excited to go head-to-head with them,” said Kush.

"I have gone wheel-to-wheel with both this year and they are tough competitors. To reach F1, you need to prove that you are the best in F2. To do that, you need to beat the best, that’s the bottom line," Kush, who idolizes his brother Arjun, added. 

Kush burst onto the scene in Formula 2, securing a hard-fought podium in Melbourne before qualifying second in Silverstone. However, it has been an uphill task to remain at the sharp end with a Campos car that has displayed inconsistent race pace.

“My career has been very up and down, so I am used to the disappointments of the sport. Keeping a level head has been one of the most important things. In the second half my pace was even better, but the results didn’t come for various reasons.

"It is the small things that make a big difference at the top level, and taking that into my next year, I will work harder,” said Kush.

From 2024, the Formula 2 cars will undergo a marked change in appearance and behaviour to closely mirror the F1 machines. With a greater focus on ground-effects and aerodynamics, Kush has his say on the next generation of F2 cars.

“The car looks a lot closer to an F1 car with a narrow nose and the ground effects coming into play. The weight is going to be heavier, that makes the slow speed corners and changes of direction more difficult.

"It is going to help keep the car planted in the high speeds with more stability under the brakes. The teams are not going to have a lot of time, we will only get to drive the cars next year."

“I stay away from driving on Bengaluru’s roads. I’d prefer F2 to be honest,” Kush signed off with a chuckle.

(Published 29 October 2023, 14:58 IST)

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