F2 and even F1 could be the future for Kush Maini. The next 12 months will define how high he can climb up the Motorsport ladder.
My thoughts on what’s next in Kush Maini’s Motorsport career – 2023 and more so, a focus on 2024. F2 seems certain for Kush, but does he have a realistic shot at F1?
I’ve known the Mainis since ages. Kush’s father Gautam and I shared the grid for a few races in the Formula LGB series in the early 2000s. However, I got to know the Mainis better when Kush’s brother, Arjun, won the ‘One from a Billion Hunt’ in 2011. The One from a Billion Hunt was the Force India Formula 1 Team’s driver development program – to hunt for India’s next Formula 1 driver. I was responsible for the team’s junior development program that had Lewis Hamilton’s father Anthony Hamilton and Formula 1 driver Nico Hulkenberg among the few advisors.
My connection with the Mainis goes deeper – Kush and Arjun’s sports psychologist is the much-renowned Dr. Shree Advani (also from Bengaluru). Shree, his brother Pankaj (yes, the multiple times World Billiards and Snooker champion) and I have a close bond and I’m glad to have made the connection between the Mainis and Shree back then. Shree has made a tremendous impact on several world-class athletes and I’m sure the Maini brothers are beneficiaries, too.
Kush Maini’s Rise Through The Ranks
Kush’s rise through the Motorsport ranks has caught many by surprise. After all, he went a bit off radar after finishing 2nd in the BRDC Formula 3 championship in 2020. In 2021, he did a solo race (in Bahrain) in the FIA World Endurance Championship in the LMP2 class. He followed that up with the Asian F3 championship (in the racing off-season) where he finished only 11th.
In 2022, Kush raced in Formula 3 with limited success. He finished 14th in the standings overall with one podium finish (Sprint race in Hungary) and only three other points scoring finishes. I wasn’t alone in believing that Kush needed another season in Formula 3 before progressing up the Motorsport ladder. I believed in the conventional Motorsport logic that he needed more time to settle down in Formula 3 before moving to racing the faster cars in Formula 2.
I was, however, wrong in my assessment.
“Just because you’re fast in one formula, doesn’t mean you’ll be fast in the next formula” – is a classic quote in the world of Motorsport.
Kush has proved the inverse of this quote wrong already.
Kush Maini in F2, F1 Next?
In the opening many rounds, Kush’s consistency saw him become the only driver to finish the first 10 races of the season; and he scored from 8 out of those 10 races. Kush’s early-season points scoring record was bettered by only one driver in Formula 2 history, Lando Norris.
As the season has progressed, Kush’s qualifying performances have been much-cheered for, however, Campos Racing’s lack of race pace resulted in Kush not being able to capitalise on his qualifying performances. In the 10 races before the summer break, Kush managed to score points in just 2 races; this is despite finishing 8 out of the 10 races.
The general belief is that Kush deserves a better car in 2024 and a junior driver association with a Formula 1 team. The latter, one hopes, will offer his talent a much needed boost in the next 12-18 months and a possible shot at a Formula 1 seat.
F1, F2 future for Kush Maini – 3 key conversations
At this stage of his career and the Motorsport season, Kush’s management would have three key conversations ongoing to secure a drive in F2 and line him up for a shot at F1.
First, a junior driver deal with one of the many Formula 1 teams. Kush’s performances have been impressive enough to attract some of the best teams with the hope that they will fund some (or all) of his racing in 2024 and maybe offer a Formula 1 test program (depending on Kush’s results). A junior driver program is a well-oiled business and so-long as Kush continues to drive well, he will be a bankable driver for the future and this is what teams would be putting their hopes on.
The second, and an even more important conversation, is that of racing for another season in Formula 2. A repeat year would be the most-prudent career decision at this stage (given that he seems well-suited to this formula) but which team to race with would be the tougher choice to make.
Formula 2, as we have seen in the recent seasons, is a bit of a lottery when it comes to team form and predictability. Yes, the top teams have always performed well (baseline), but when they haven’t, they really have struggled (MP in 2023, Prema in 2022, for example). For a driver to launch a title assault in the second season, team consistency is the least requirement.
In 2022, Kush was the last driver to sign up for Formula 2 with Campos Racing. However, for 2024, Kush will need to be one of the first ones to make a move. The top teams make a decision in the second half of the season (now, literally, in the long gap to Abu Dhabi) and the other factor for Kush’s management to keep in mind is the higher cost associated with racing for a top team in Formula 2.
In 2024, Formula 2 will introduce a new car. While the changes may seem more cosmetic in nature, to be able to find a team that is able to get on top of the new package would be key. Let’s hope Kush is able to make a decision that holds the test of time.
Finally, the third conversation is around Kush’s management itself. He will have the option to choose a headline driver management agency (such as All Road Management, Julian Jakobi, etc.) or choose well-respected and connected independent driver managers in the paddock. The least Kush could expect from a driver manager is an association with a junior driver program of a Formula 1 team, the expectation of a junior driver test in Abu Dhabi (2023 would be too soon) and hopefully a testing program (testing previous cars program) to give him vital mileage in a Formula 1 car.
Could Kush be the fillip for Indian Motorsport, and hopefully, one day, the return of the Indian Grand Prix? It’s always easier when Formula 1 fans in the stands have a hero to cheer for!