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Indian driver Arjun Maini hopes Haas apprenticeship will help land F1 seat

Arjun Maini, a 19-year-old Bangalore driver, is racing in the GP3 Series, whose latest product is Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

other sports Updated: May 22, 2017 19:19 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Arjun Maini is the first Indian to win a GP3 (a feeder series to GP2) race. He is a development driver with F1 team Haas.
Arjun Maini is the first Indian to win a GP3 (a feeder series to GP2) race. He is a development driver with F1 team Haas.(HT Photo)

Arjun Maini is taking giant strides in the racing world. On May 11, the 19-year-old driver was signed up by Haas F1 Team as a development driver, and three days later he became the first Indian to win a race in the GP3 Series, at Barcelona.

With an aim to break into Formula 1, Arjun Maini is focussed on the 2017 GP3 Series, which acts as a feeder race for F1. And why not? The Bangalore driver is placed third in the championship with a win already in his kitty.

Right set-up

“I am focussed on the championship. We have a very strong team, probably not as good as ART (GP3 team) when it comes to investments, but we have some of the best engineers and mechanics who can make the championship a possibility,” Maini told HT from his base in Milton Keynes, England.

Read | Arjun Maini bags development driver role with Haas F1 Team

He races for Jenzer Motorsport, who are second with ART Grand Prix leading in the points table.

The GP3 Series comprises eight rounds of two races each. After two races (one round), Maini (21 points) is third in the championship, eight points behind Japan’s Nirei Fukuzumi (29 points) and his Jenzer Motorsport teammate Alessio Lorandi (25 points).

GP3 is a feeder series for GP2, which in turn develops drivers for Formula 1. However, of late many GP3 drivers have directly graduated to Formula 1, most notably Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who won the Russian Grand Prix on April 30.

Read | Indian racer Arjun Maini creates history as he completes GP3 podium finish

F1 apprentice

Maini’s role at Haas could take him a long way ahead.

“We had been in talks with Haas since the end of 2016 but they were busy with the development of the 2017 car etc. so the progression was a bit slow. But once we met during the Spanish GP weekend in Barcelona (May 14), we sat down and finalised the deal,” explained Maini, who will also take part in Haas’ simulator programme and attend F1 races and tests throughout the season.

“Being part of a Formula 1 team will take me a long way forward. I will be debriefed about various technicalities of the sport. I will be in an atmosphere where I will get to be a part of conversations between drivers and engineers. The whole idea is to get used to the competitive environment of F1.”

Maini thanked former Indian F1 racer and guru Karun Chandhok. “Karun has been the biggest guiding force. He has been there for me for a long time and he has also helped me in getting the driver development role at Haas.”

The GP3 series will resume in July at the Red Bull Ring, Austria.