“I'm in Formula E with a team like Mahindra which is a dream come true for me,” said Indian driver Kush Maini on his recent signing with Mahindra Racing as a reserve driver
Things have been going well for Kush Maini, a 23-year-old emerging talent from Bangalore. Kush who currently races in FIA Formula 2, joined the Alpine Academy as a junior driver last month and now Mahindra Racing has signed Kush as a reserve driver for Season 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Kush replaces fellow Indian driver Jehan Daruvala, who joined Maserati MSG Racing as one of their lead drivers for the upcoming season.
Kush has ascended through the ranks of motorsport, making a mark in various prestigious championships over the past seven years. Starting his single-seater career in Italian F4 in 2016, Maini's journey continued with success in British Formula 3, Formula Renault Eurocup and FIA Formula 3. Now, joining Mahindra Racing, Maini embarks on a new chapter in his career. His responsibilities entail working closely with the team's race drivers, Edoardo Mortara and Nyck de Vries, and collaborating with fellow Reserve Driver, Jordan King. Maini's role encompasses simulator sessions, potential participation in selected E-Prix events to support the team, and prospects for testing the team's race car in the future.
We had a chance to have a chat with him about the recent signings, his thoughts on electric racing, and how he plans to juggle commitments while aiming to excel in both premier racing series.
Q: How did this opportunity come about?
A: I think my F2 season opened a few eyes, and it showed that there's an Indian in his rookie season who is doing a decent job, and he can overtake, and he can fight in the front of an F2 championship. So, I got the call not too long ago, and it was basically that, how would you like to be a reserve driver? And I was quite shocked, because, 2022 didn't end in the best way, and I didn't have a lot going for me. And now, to have so many things on my table is amazing, and it's a great feeling. So, I think it just came about through good results and putting myself in the right place at the right time in F2.
Q: You’re also a part of the Alpine Academy, and now you have joined Mahindra Racing, how do you plan to balance these commitments?
A: It was a busy year this year, so next year will be very interesting. I think, at the end of the day, I'm in Formula 1, which is the pinnacle, and I'm with one of the best teams in F1. And, on the other hand, I'm in Formula E with a team like Mahindra which is a dream come true for me, because coming from India, all I want to see is Indians or Indian teams do well in motorsport. So, that's a very proud feeling for me. But, the roles are sort of similar – my sim work and my work with the team. For Mahindra, I have to be race-ready, so I have to learn a lot and be as good as the race drivers on the sim that, if they have an issue one day, I can jump in and perform. With Alpine, it's slightly different in that respect, where I'll be doing a lot of sim work still, but I'll be working closely with the team and in the gym with the Alpine trainers, basically where Alpine is trying to prepare you to see that one day if you're good enough to be in F1. So those are the slight differences, but it's two great teams in top-level championships and I can't ask for anything more.
Q: What does Alpine think about your joining Mahindra Racing decision?
A: For them it's great, because it's me, their driver, getting more experience in a different type of motorsport, which in the end will help me perform better in F2, which in the end is Mahindra and Alpine's wish. And for that, this is only going to help. So egos aside, I think I'm in two great teams working with a very professional bunch of people, and for my self-improvement, this is the best strategy, and both teams see that in the same way.
Q: Are there any commitments from Mahindra Racing to you in terms of having you race in any of the races?
A: As of now, I will only know my plan in the next few months, all I know is I will be in the car 100 per cent. I don't know whether it's for a race, but we'll only know in the next few months. But I know that I will drive the car next year, so I need to be ready for that. I'll be doing a lot of work on the sim. I'll be living in England next year, so it'll be close to the Alpine base and close to the Mahindra base, so whichever day whichever team needs me, I'll be going up and down, so that'll be fun.
Q: The motorsport world tends to differentiate between electric and ICE racing. What do you as a racer think about it?
A: I think obviously from a young age, you hear these loud engines, and you see the smoke and everything, and that's great, but for me as a racing driver, it's just about challenges. I'm not going to lie here and say F1 is not my dream, it's every kid's dream, but Formula E, in its respect, is a world championship with the best drivers in the world who deserve to be in F1. So for me, the driver level isn't that different from F1 to Formula E, and at the end of the day, it's a diverse championship, it's a different type of racing, you can't compare the two because they're so different, but as a racing driver, it's so exciting to drive two different things at the top level.
Q: Technically the two series are very different, how do you see planning for the technical challenges and how do you plan to switch the mindset from one series to another?
A: I think, as a racing driver, since we were young, it's all about adapting. If it rains one day, or if it's dry the next day, you've got to adapt, and you've got to be the quickest you can be on each day, so for me, the car isn't any different. One day I'll be in the Formula E sim, and, I'll have my notes ready, I'll have a different book, and then the next day I might be in my F2 sim, or the F1 sim, and then it's a different book, but it's going to help change my mind to switch between two completely different things, which is going to help my adaptability, that tomorrow if suddenly it starts raining during a race, I'm adaptable, I'm prepared for it. So that's only going to help me become a better racing driver. It'll be tricky at first, I won't lie, but I think, after a couple of times, I'll get it.
Q: What's your current daily driver, and what's your dream, grail daily driver?
A: My current daily driver, you're going to laugh at me because it's in England, and I just needed a cheap car. It's a Chrysler. I don't need a fast car, I drive fast enough on the track, so for me, I just needed to get from place to place, but if I want one, honestly it would be like a Ford Mustang, just to have some fun. More specifically, the Bullitt one.