It’s almost hard for the man himself to believe but Kush Maini has revelled in an impressive Formula 2 rookie campaign with Campos Racing. The Indian driver has a podium to his name and a healthy points’ total to be on the cusp of the top 10 in the Drivers’ Championship as things currently stand.

Yet it could have been so different for Maini not too long ago. A year on the sidelines from racing almost led him to leaving single seater racing altogether. But the rebound and journey since then has been impressive to say the least.

“Two years ago, I was already planning to change the route of my career,” Maini admits. “Sitting on the sidelines was a very tough thing mentally because it was the first year I didn't actually race. So back then, if you’d told me I would be fighting at the front in F2 in my rookie year, I would say ‘it's probably a long shot’. But honestly, at the end of last year, or even the middle of last year, looking at my speed in F3, I knew I could do it.

“Things seem to just be clicking this year which they weren't last year. So, in terms of self-belief and speed, I have that. Now it's just time to put everything together through a weekend. I still feel like we haven't had a weekend this year where everything has come together. We still had some ups and downs even through a weekend like Baku. I feel we had the speed for pole, and I started P14. So, it's still small pieces that are still missing, but it's very small pieces, and I'm sure we can put those together.”

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The year started with Campos very much on the front foot. Both he and teammate Ralph Boschung were flying out of the gate, scoring points in Sakhir and Jeddah, but Maini didn’t stop there. In fact, he achieved a point-scoring record that only one driver in F2 history has bettered in their first year in the Championship, that being Lando Norris.

Consistency has been the key from the very outset and the main aim for Maini going into his first F2 campaign. While the impressive form couldn’t last forever, it has been advantageous, says Maini, to have experienced the ups and downs of a season so early in 2023.

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“I think it was a great start. We've got a podium already, we've been consistently in the points which was my main goal. I think our Qualifying pace has been really good when we’ve put it together. And even races where it didn’t go all our way, we fought back to get points. So all in all, we've been through everything already in the first half of the year. We've been through bad Qualifying sessions, we've been through good ones. We fought at the front, we've come from the back. So really, we've gone through everything we had to and had all the experiences. I know we have a quick car in Qualifying and I know we can fight at the front in the races.

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“Even before the season started, my only goal was to just stay in the points. In Formula 2, a lot of mistakes happen. A lot of strategy errors happen. So, if you're in the ballpark in the last three laps, suddenly you can gain a lot of points and you just gotta be in the mix and that was my main goal. I think we've done that, and we've stuck to that goal. The weekends where we've had pace, we've done our job.”

His jump up from Formula 3 to Formula 2 surprised a few, but he has left those doubters behind with an unshakeable self-belief. He has viewed himself and Campos as underdogs almost, but through their collaboration this year, exceeded expectations and the team continues to set the bar higher.

Going into the final phase of the ’23 campaign, Maini says that the fight is still on for an impressive top 10 finish in the Championship and to help the Spanish team rebound from a disappointing 2022.

“I always knew we had the speed. I never thought that was going to be my problem, even in the junior formula it was never my issue. There were many other issues, but coming into this year, with a fresh start with no expectations, I'm glad about the way it's gone. Campos - they finished last unfortunately last year. So with me being a driver which many people thought it was too early for, it was kind of like a match made maybe not for massive success. We thought we would have, the car is great, the team is amazing, and they deserve wins and podiums for sure. So I'm going to do my best to try and give it to them.

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“If you look at my year last season, every race this year has been a step forward. Honestly, I think this is right down my alley. I've been through much worse. It is tough, don't get me wrong, it's still tough. For example, in Barcelona when I finished almost last, I was not the happiest kid. But then I went home for a couple of weeks just recharge my batteries which is very important in this sport, and came back to the workshop and prep the race as if it was the first round, like I always do. I'm ready to fight.”

READ MORE: Living in the present: Getting to know the real Kush Maini

Looking at what it will take to recapture his early season form, Maini indicates that maximising his Qualifying performances will be crucial. Prior to the summer break, P2 on the grid in Silverstone ranked as his best Friday result so far, but the Indian driver believes the team is capable of similar results on a more regular basis between now and Yas Marina. ‘Peaking’ at the right point on a weekend is the factor that could unlock more regular points and podium finishes once more.

Another impressive element has been the mentality the Campos driver has held all year, with lofty expectations that have fuelled the strong results. That approach continues, and it will be all out attack from the break until the final chequered flag falls in Abu Dhabi says Maini.

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“I think it's just peaking at the right points. I think Baku on run one I was P2, Jeddah run one I was P2. I just need to peak at the right point and then our weekend completely changes. So that's the key.

“Qualifying is important, but I would say race pace on some tracks is even more important sometimes. If there’s one thing we struggled with when we started at the front, it's going forwards instead of losing one or two positions, always looking at my mirrors. So, I think if we iron that out and start starting at the front end and go forwards, that would be my main goal. Now, every race we do, we go forward, we don't look at others.

“When you're a rookie, progression is always going upwards. I think there's still a lot to learn for me and still a lot to put together. I can become a much better driver from now until the end of the year. So, driving-wise and mindset-wise, yes, there's always things to improve. If you improve those areas, then the points will get bigger and bigger. So, for me, my main goal is trusting the process and just trying to iron out these small issues which I've had because even though it looks like a really good start of the year, I still think that there were times in places where we could have maximised more. It's just all about maximising your potential on that given weekend. I think that that should be the goal for every race from now until the end of the year.”