Kush Maini put together an impressive Qualifying session on debut for Campos Racing, ending the session sixth-fastest. The Indian admitted he was a little bit more nervous than usual, owing to the fact he was confident that there was a good performance within both himself and the car.
Following post-season and pre-season testing as well as the Free Practice session on Friday, Maini said that knowing a strong result was on the cards made his Qualifying a little more critical. But after securing a strong starting position, the Campos driver says proving it to himself is another bonus at this early stage of his F2 career.
“It was nerve-wracking session. I knew from testing and since I've driven this car that it suits my driving style, and I know that the Campos cars are really good. I knew that if we put everything together, we could be in the mix and that's what made it more stressful.
“I'm super happy. I did some good laps. Both were good enough for P6 I think. We did a one-lap strategy on both sets, so we have good tyres for the races and I'm looking forward to it. Now that all the weight is off my shoulders, I feel a lot more confident. I always knew I could fight with the best in the world, so it felt good to be up there.”
As usual, there was a level of track evolution that played out during the Qualifying session, though the degree in which the track improved caught Maini by surprise. Not because of a huge leap in available grip between runs, but the lack of improvement versus what had been predicted.
It meant that the field was tightly bunched fighting for a top 10 starting position. Maini highlighted pre-season testing as the factor that made a good grid slot tough to come by due to the knowledge levels teams and drivers had developed.
“Track improvement was not as much as I thought. All the times were any tight except P1 because we've been here for four days now, so it's going to be tight and every tenth is going to be massive. I think the average improvement was like two-tenths from the first set to the second, and I thought with the fuel burning off and driving improvements, it would be at least half a second. So it was quite surprising, but it was the same for everyone.”
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Along with teammate Ralph Boschung, both Campos drivers made it inside the top 10. Boschung is set to start the Sprint Race from reverse grid pole, meaning there’s a good possibility of strong points finishes on the table for both drivers.
Maini highlighted the importance of getting off the mark early in the season and securing valuable points where possible.
“Campos has always been strong. They went through some difficult patches last year, but when I signed for the team, I knew I wasn't just signing to be on the grid, I was signing to fight. I'm just happy we could finally show that potential. I think we had a bit more, but we'll take it. Ralph is on pole tomorrow and we can get some good points this weekend, so I'm really happy for the boys.
“Tomorrow will be the first F2 race for me, so we obviously did the race runs in Practice so we have an idea of how to pursue it from the start. I'm just gonna keep it clean, keep it on the road, no crazy risks and hopefully bring some points.”