Interview by Sara Del Mistero and Giulia Costantino. Translation by Marianna Duca.
How many times did we think we could not achieve a certain result? That the further away it seemed, the harder it was for us to react? That’s what we discussed with Kush Maini. He told us about his fear of not being able to return racing but also the excitement of his first Formula 3 podium, the support of the Alpine Academy and Mika Hakkinen. And of course, his relationship with his brother Arjun.
Kush and Arjun: two brothers with the same dream
If Kush can say he’s a professional racing driver, it’s also thanks to his brother’s help. As they say, younger brothers always try to imitate the footsteps of the older one, and so it was for him. “The rivalry started very early. And everything we did, you know, if we played football or if we played any sport, it would get very competitive. Sometimes it gets messy, but it’s great to have someone like him by my side.”
It was Arjun and his passion, who first pushed Kush to try karting: “The first two or three years I wasn’t very good, I tried because my brother was racing in karting. I made a lot of mistakes in the first laps but it’s part of the journey. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn. That’s why they’re so important for our sports it’s fundamental to take them in a positive way.”
Motorsports in India
India still isn’t that strong when it comes to motorsports. “After Drive to Survive, there’s a lot more interest. It’s a very populated country and seeing that new tracks and infrastructures are being built… It means we are going in the right direction. There’s also an Indian F4 championship, it’s really nice to see“.
That’s also why Kush Maini decided to move to Europe. “When I was 12 or 13, we decided to come to Italy. I did WSK, CIK and all the other karting categories. Italy is the center of everything and coming from somewhere like India I knew I had to move here to pursue my dream.”
The arrival in Formula 3
We want to highlight the determination Kush had to put into pursuing his dream. In 2021 he had to step away for a season and he even thought he could not go back racing. And then, in 2022, the announcement of his arrival in Formula 3.
“When I got on a Formula 3 car for the first time, after a one year pause, it was a shock. The first race in Bahrain was amazing as I did P3 in quali. After a season away from the sport, you start to have doubts: you’re not good enough, you’re not fast enough… and such a result in the first weekend gave me a boost of energy to begin the season as good as possible.”
He only got to step on the podium once in this category, at the Hungaroring, during Kush Maini’s best weekend of the season. “The car was really fast, we fought really well and the track is one of my favorites. I always felt the podium near but some of my mistakes didn’t let us get that, it was amazing to step on it in Hungary.”
Straight to Formula 2: Technique and Speed
The Indian driver took a risk, and many would have extended the time, but not Kush. “We were very fast in F3, but results did not come. Many people told me I had to stay in that category but I believed in myself. It was a difficult time but the decision we took was the right one.”
Formula 2 is considered the top class of the feeder series and so, what are the difficulties drivers have when they change categories and they have to adapt to a new car?
“A Formula 2 car definitely has more power but it is also heavier. However, you find the main difference in the braking system. These cars have carbon brakes so you have to learn how to keep them in the correct temperature. Once I learned that I felt much more comfortable with the single-seater, so I gained more and more speed on the track and I learned to understand the single-seater.”
What we don’t see of Formula 2
We see a lot of fights on the track, perhaps too many, but we never give importance to the human relationships that are made off track. In particular, for Kush Maini, Ralph Boschung has always been a reference point.
“Ralph was really helpful for me until the end, any question I had he would answer. I learned a lot from him in the first part of the season and that helped me become faster. He is definitely the driver who has helped me the most. He is a great person to have by your side, I don’t think I would have done as well as I did without him.“
New year, new teammate. In 2024, Kush Maini will have Gabriel Bortoleto by his side. “He’s a great driver and a nice guy, it’s his rookie season and I’m sure he’ll have some questions, I’ll try help him. We work well together and already since Abu Dhabi we had a good relationship, it will be a fun year and the atmosphere with the team will be great. I’m looking forward to it!”
2024 and the Barcelona shakedown test
A new era is about to start in Formula 2, with new single seaters and a lot of testing to go through. A day of testing was held a few weeks ago in Barcelona to allow teams to collect the first data.
“First of all, the car is really good. Gabriel and I only had one car and a lot of testing to do: aerodynamics and set up on top of everything. Most of my time was used to understand the new car, even though many things didn’t change from the old car.”
“The people in the team are really serious and great at their job, fun when it’s needed… The atmosphere is great. I’m looking forward to drive the car in Bahrain, but we collected a lot of data which makes us very confident about the work we did during testing.”
“For 2024, first of all, I will give my best. I will try to learn from last season’s mistakes to be one step ahead. Then if everything goes well, fighting for the championship is the main goal, as always.”
Towards Formula E
As any self-respecting driver, Kush Maini always aims for the top. The Indian, in November, was announced as the third driver for Mahindra Racing: “I haven’t tried the single-seater on track yet. It will be fun and interesting also because being a reserve driver in a top team is an opportunity to learn something.”
“When I go to the factory, talking with all the people working there, and of course also with Edo and Nick, it helps me a lot. Obviously I’m looking forward to being able to help them in any way and it’s a nice challenge that will keep me in shape when I’m not racing in Formula 2.“
One Goal for Kush Maini: Formula 1
Kush Maini got his first taste of Formula 1 when Mika Hakkinen decided to follow him in his career, “It’s like a dream, he’s been my idol for a long time. The first time he called me I was trembling because he is Mika, you know? And now, having him with me, being able to call him anytime I want or through Whatsapp is surreal.”
“And if someone like Mika believes in you, you have to believe in yourself too, there’s no other way. It’s a good confidence boost, and having someone like that on the team is great.”
Bringing him even closer to Formula 1 is Alpine Academy‘s decision to take him into its driver group. “I was really proud of myself when they called me. I’ve been away from racing, and after some hard work getting a call from Alpine saying “we believe in you” was a great honor. Then the pressure came. In Formula 1 there’s much more pressure and racing under the wing of a top team increases it even more.”
“It took a couple of months before all the paperwork was completed. I will make the most of their help this season to get the best result possible. It is a dream come true.”
Next stop: Bahrain
Kush Maini has told us his story in a clear and pure way. We hope this has also reached you who are reading this. It only remains for us to wish him and his team the best of luck for the season to come and may Bahrain bring many new good memories in 2024 as well!