CHENNAI: It’s been a while since an Indian got into the driving seat of a Formula One car. The two who managed to get there — Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok — are so revered that whenever anything is written about them, they are usually addressed as ‘one of the two Indians to race in F1’. After Karthikeyan and Chandhok, nobody has even come close. That is, until now.
It may not be far-fetched to see an Indian racing on the big stage in three-four years. Two, in particular, look like they can get there — Jehan Daruvala and Arjun Maini.
Maini is racing in the GP3 series and is currently placed 10th with one more weekend of racing to go. This, despite him missing the first four races of the season.
For perspective, current Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr finished 10th in the series, two years before he earned a drive with the F1 team.
“I did not expect it to be this good,” Maini, back in hometown Bengaluru before the year-ending races in Abu Dhabi, told Express.
“I missed the first four races and went in for my first race without even testing the car. It could have been better, but then again, that is for me to improve.”
Maini started the season in Formula 3, but made the decision to secure a drive in GP3 with Jenzer Motorsport after the first few races.
“It was a last-minute decision and I had 40 minutes of practice before my first race. It was difficult as the car had 160 more horsepower than I was used to. But I think I managed to deal with it.”
The stats suggest so. Maini finished second in Hungary in just his second weekend. He has consistently managed to finish among the points since.
Now 18, Maini’s run in GP3 would have been considered impressive for someone his age a few years ago.
But since then, the likes of Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat (who incidentally went straight to F1 after winning GP3) have shifted the goalposts. But Maini believes he has time on his side. “When you look at Verstappen, when he was eight, he would have been racing in Europe every weekend. When I was eight, I had five races a year. But when the time is ready, I can go on and take the opportunity. It’s going well in GP3 and I’m improving. So I am not going to rush things. I am going to take it as it is.”
The former Force India academy racer has long since drifted from the path that the F1 team set for him and Daruvala. But Maini believes that door is not closed for him yet. “I think Force India has clearly said as well that the doors aren’t closed. It’s not that it’s not going to be an option. It would be great to drive in Force India and I think it would be a big boost for motorsport in India as well.”