BENGALURU: In a big step in his career, Arjun Maini has been signed up as development driver by the Haas Formula 1 Team. Only two Indians — Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok — have driven in F1. Maini becomes only the third driver to be signed up by an F1 team in any capacity.
The 19-year-old will be development driver along with American Santino Ferrucci.
His sojourn with the American team will see Maini travel with the team and will get an opportunity to drive and attend test sessions throughout the season. He will also participate in the team’s simulator programme. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are the main drivers.
Maini has been a regular in the Indian racing circuit, and has progressed to racing in Europe. Currently, he is racing in the GP3 Series for Jenzer Motorsport. Despite missing the first four races of the season, the Bengalurean finished 10th in the championship standings, with a best finish of second.
“It’s big for my career because the visibility in F1 is high, and with that comes responsibility,” he told Express from Barcelona.
“The focus will be to continue doing well in GP3 because performance is always rewarded, and my focus should be to learn as much as I can by watching and developing as an F1 driver.”
Explaining how it will be beneficial, Maini said: “An opportunity to drive an F1 car on the simulator is huge. This will help me work with their engineers and talk to their people, who’re also well connected. I’m looking forward to learning, observing and using this knowledge.”
There is no clarity on how much time he will get with the car. “These decisions will be taken later but as of now, I’m going to concentrate on the upcoming GP3 race. There’ll be lots of time between races and that is when I’ll take this opportunity to spend time with the team and learn the best I can,” he said.
Maini, whose brother Kush is also a racer, isn’t getting too excited, however. “This was my big dream, and is a big step towards that. I’ve to religiously follow it each step of the way and make progress at every step.
“I’m looking forward to using this opportunity to maximising my learning, but at the same time need to remain grounded. I’ve to focus on what I’ve to currently achieve, and that is to do well every single time I’m out on track,” he added.
His mentor Chandhok added: “It’s a good first step into the F1 world, and Arjun will learn a lot. How to convert this to a race seat in at that level will be down to his season in GP3. There have been just two Indian F1 drivers, and I hope to help him expand that club in the future.”
Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “As Haas F1 Team continues to mature, we must develop potential talent. Arjun was successful in karting and has transitioned well to various Formula series, and now GP3. We’ll keep a keen eye on his progress this year.”
2007: First title in the Rotax Mini Max National Championship
2009: Youngest driver to take part in JK Tyre Rotax Junior Max; National Karting Championship
2011: Winner of Force India’s ‘One from a billion hunt’ Junior Max Karting; Won in Macau, Malaysia
2012: Raced in MSA British Karting C’ship; Won in Rotax Invitational Karting, Malaysia
2013: Won in Formula BMW Super Six Series in Asia; 2nd in JK Tyre Racing; Competed in WSK and Master Karting in KF category
2014: Second overall in BRDC Formula 4 championship
2015: Competed in Toyota Racing Series (NZ); fourth in standings
2016: Competed in GP3 Series, best of second place in Hungary