Maini: Häkkinen ‘Structuring My Whole Life’ as New Mentor

Maini: Häkkinen ‘Structuring My Whole Life’ as New Mentor

Maini Häkkinen 2023

Kush Maini opened up about how becoming a protégé of Mika Häkkinen and joining the Alpine Academy helped him prepare for this weekend’s FIA Formula 2 finale at Yas Marina, for which he qualified third.

After Round 13 of the championship in Monza, Maini had a whirlwind two months highlighted by being announced as a mentee of Häkkinen, the 1998 and 1999 F1 world champion, followed by the news less than two weeks later, in late October, that he would be joining the Alpine Academy.

F2 rookie Maini, currently 11th in the F2 standings with 60 points, had shown strong pace in Qualifying, spending much of the 30-minute session in the top three and portions at the top of the timesheets entirely.

Ultimately, the Indian driver lost out to both pole-sitter Jack Doohan and second-place driver Victor Martins, though third place was still his second-highest result in Qualifying this season. Doohan and Martins are the other two Alpine juniors on the F2 grid, making for an all-Alpine top three in the session.

InsideF2 asked Maini at the post-Qualifying press conference about what difference those new relationships had made in his on-track performance.

“First of all, they’re setting the bar quite high. I think to beat the best, you have to operate at a really high level,” Maini said of his Alpine Academy stable mates.

“Having Mika on my team now, he’s basically structuring my whole life, my whole training, my whole having a physio at the circuit. I never had those things before, so we’re definitely going to have to kick it up a notch if we’re going to challenge these two on the right of me.

“Honestly, I think being announced as Alpine, it definitely heightens the pressure, for sure, but I think if we ever want to race in F1, we’re going to have to deal with [that], so it’s better to start now than later.

“[I’m] super grateful for all the support I’m getting. I know the races haven’t been as good as I wanted to this year, but it’s happy to see that the people that are important can see my performances in qualifying at least and my pace. [I have] a lot to work on, but I have the best people around me to do it.”

Maini was then pressed on what advice Häkkinen had given him in his adjustment to F2. The Indian driver recalled Silverstone, when the benefits from his front-row starting position for the Feature Race were undone by a sluggish start.

“My start was really bad,” he said. “I was quite nervous and asking, ‘What am I going to do in Turn 1 or Turn 2?’. And [Häkkinen] looks at me and he just goes, ‘No, wait, why are you thinking of Turn 1 and 2? Just think of leaving the clutch.’

“And that instantly, when you have less things to think about, just calms your nerves. But other than that, he’s more just behind me. He’s watching everything I’m doing, and he’s really heavily involved in creating a winning team around me.”

Maini starts Saturday’s Sprint Race eighth and Sunday’s Feature Race third.

Credit: Kush Maini via X is your home for Formula 2

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Maini Häkkinen 2023