Teenager Arjun Maini today joined Haas F1 Team as one of its development drivers, making him only the third Indian to be part of a Formula One squad after Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok. Haas signed Bengaluru-based Maini along with American Santino Ferucci as development drivers for the team that made its Formula One debut last season.
Like Ferrucci, Maini will be “embedded” with the American outfit, attending races and tests throughout the year while also participating in the team’s simulator program.
However, there is no confirmation on when he would make his debut in a Formula One car. “His debut drive depends on how his GP3 goes. He will start with simulator work in Maranello at the Ferrari simulator,” Chandhok, who also happens to be Maini’s manager, told PTI.
Asked about the significance of this role, Chandhok added: “It’s a good first step into the F1 world and Arjun will learn a lot. How we convert this to a race seat in F1 will largely be down to his season in GP3 which starts this weekend.” Chandhok and Karthikeyan are the only Indians who competed in Formula One with the latter scoring points when he finished fourth in the six-car United States Grand Prix in 2005.
Maini joined GP3 midway into last season after he had no option but to exit the F3 programme. He ended up competing in 14 out of 18 GP3 races, finishing 10th in the standings including a second place in Hungary.
It has been learnt that Maini did not have to pay for the development driver role with Haas signing him on merit. “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,” said Haas team principal Guenther Steiner.
Maini said it was an honour to be part of a Formula One team. “All of my racing to date has been with the focus of becoming a Formula One driver, and this opportunity puts me one step closer to my goal.
“I am eager to learn, understand and experience how a Formula One team operates. Everything I learn can be used immediately in GP3 while preparing for my ultimate goal of Formula One,” he said. The GP3 series opener will be held alongside the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend.