Kush Maini has been one of the surprises of the F2 season, being one of the most consistent scorers and highest-performing rookies, which he puts down to his Campos team and new place of residence
The Campos Racing driver sits eighth in the standings 12 races into the season, and was fourth before a difficult weekend last time out resulted in him leaving Barcelona with no points. He has scored a total of 49 so far, those coming from eight races and with the highlight being a sprint race podium in Melbourne.
A lot has been said and written about Maini’s on-track performances, but little about the off-the-track build-up to them. Driver’s ability, team performance, budget, those are concepts that always come across in conversations about what is needed to succeed in motorsport.
In addition, there are other factors that are often overlooked and that at times prove to be even more important than the aforementioned ones when it comes to maximise the package. Among said factors can be named a supportive team, good team-driver communication, self-confidence and wellness. The Indian has achieved all of them in 2023.
Maini sat with Formula Scout on the eve of the Spanish Grand Prix and discussed the off-track keys that have led him to a great start to life in F2.
“Honestly, after my Formula 3 year, we were really quick but teams don’t really look for only quick, they look at the end result. And it was tough for me to get a seat in the more known frontrunners. But you know, Adrian [Campos Jr, team principal], we had a talk with him I think in Monza and he was super behind me and I needed that,” Maini explained about how his F2 deal with Campos was shaped, having spent last year racing for MP Motorsport in his sole season of FIA F3.
“Adrian, I could see he believed in me from the start. He knew I had the speed and it was just about fine-tuning a couple of things. So as soon as Adrian showed me that he believed in me and believed in my potential, I said it’s a done deal.
“Because for me, that’s the number one most important thing. When the team principal will do everything in his power to make you succeed, that’s the best feeling a driver can have.”
It was not just the team boss who provided reassurance for Maini’s decision, as his older brother Arjun – who was a Campos driver for three F2 rounds in 2019 – also supported the move.
“They’re a great bunch of guys and they really teach you,” Kush Maini recalled about his brother’s words on his current team. He also remarked the importance of driving for a team that prioritises the driver’s learning “because as a rookie, you need that support system around you”.
Living in Spain has also helped to build Maini’s 2023 strong form. The Indian has found Valencia – the Spanish region where Campos’s factory is located – the perfect place to be between F2 rounds. He rests, but he also immerses himself in the team’s daily work, which is undoubtedly resulting in a better preparation towards the race weekends.
In 2022, Maini showed glimpses of greatness in F3, but failed to capitalise on his speed to get good results. In fact, he only scored in four races out of 18. But now, he is one of the most consistent drivers in the F2 field. Only Prema’s points leader Frederik Vesti and DAMS’ Ayumu Iwasa have finished more times in the points than him.
“It’s a great feeling because not only the work that goes on at the track. I feel me living in Valencia now with the team, I’m so much more involved in everything building up to the race and simulator plans and speaking with the engineer that every time I come to a race, I feel so prepared that even if it’s a track I don’t know, we can be bang on the money.
“I’m super proud of the start of the season we’ve had and I’m just happy to see that everyone, sort of the whole atmosphere is changing now that they know that we have a competitive car in and out and we can really fight for the top spots,” he said, explaining how the pre-season testing feeling of a strong package was confirmed in the opening rounds.
The 2023 F2 season so far
|Driver||Points finishes||Driver||Average race pos.|
“As a racing driver, we’re in and out of countries and it gets really hectic. And if we’re not on the track, we’re preparing for the next race. So really there’s no rest in the year.
“You have to find a good base which is close to the team. But also your whole mental health depends on your life outside the track because we’re only here for three days and then we go away. So some people want to go home, but if you can find a happy medium living near the team, I think that’s the best solution because 30-minute drive and you’re in the workshop and you can start working on the next race. But also you need to keep in mind that you need to be happy at the end of the day.
“You can only perform at a high level if you’re happy mentally and your life is in a good place. I feel like I found that in Valencia, the team feels like a family and every now and then I go home back to India as well just to see my other family. For me, it’s a great solution I found this year,” he affirmed.
Maini says that leaving his home country as a pre-adolescent taught him lots, which eventually paved the way to create a strong bond with Campos.
“I left India when I was 12. I’ve lived from when I was 12 till now in different countries around the world, especially in Europe. So the cultural shock is not really there for me anymore because it’s just I’ve been doing it from such a young age that I’ve lived in five to six different countries throughout my years.
“So I’ve seen so many different cultures and yes, I left home really early but I feel I wouldn’t be how I am now if I didn’t leave home that early because you learn so much about yourself, about different countries, different cultures you can mix. Like me and the team, I feel we clicked very quick. But this is also thanks to me leaving home early and exploring the world because if I just lived in India my whole life, this wouldn’t have clicked so easily.
“I get more of a cultural shock when I go back home to India. Let’s put it that way,” he joked.
Maini’s early 2023 results might have exceeded the expectations of many, but did not exceed his own ones, as he was certain of his potential. Notwithstanding, he admits he wouldn’t have seen being fourth in the standings after five rounds.
“I feel I always knew I can be the best. If I didn’t think I could ever be the best, I wouldn’t be here racing. Obviously I know that takes time. But yes, of course, before the season started, if you said that at Barcelona I’d be P4 in the championship, I would take it.
“We’ve been very consistent this year. I’ve been really happy. For me, podiums and wins are not so important yet because right now everyone is trying to build a base and for me being in the points is more important, grabbing points. Because I know if we do that week-in, week-out, the race we are really on top of our game, we can win. Anyone can do well on a good day, but it’s the tough days that if you can get points out of the tough days, then I think that’s what makes your championship.”
The Friday at Monaco was one of those “tough days”, as Maini qualified sixth in his group, just missing out on the benefit of the sprint race’s reversed grid. However, he kept his head down and benefited from safety car confusion to finish sixth in the feature race.
“That was really frustrating because I knew going into Monaco that qualifying is everything. But the part that makes me proud is that the team and I didn’t stop believing. And in the end, we came away from Monaco with eight points [after] not qualifying in the top 10.
“So for me, that’s a big statement that whatever happens on a Friday, it’s never over until it’s over. I’m really happy that happened because going forward, we’re going to have tough days, but it’s important to keep that in mind that we can turn it around.”