Kush Maini was left rueing what could have been after being unable to convert MP Motorsport’s front-running pace into a podium-contending grid slot in Qualifying. While his teammate Alexander Smolyar was able to make a last second improvement to ward off Zane Maloney’s bid for pole, Maini was one of several drivers whose final runs came unstuck with three minutes to go.
A late appearance from the red flag to deal with Zak O’Sullivan’s stranded Carlin threw a spanner in the works, ending Maini’s shot at moving up into the top three. The Indian driver had already entered the early stages of a push lap and consequently, the medium Pirelli rubber was no longer at an optimal performance. When he gambled on another lap at the restart, once again he was hampered, this time by traffic.
Coming close to the leading pack once again, Maini admitted that he was frustrated that he had once again missed out but resolved to focus on the positives of securing his best result since the opening round of the 2022 season in Sakhir.
"I'm really happy with the car today, it was hooked up as you could tell from Alexander (Smolyar),” he noted. “We were P4 after the second set, and unfortunately there was a red flag. Then there was only three minutes left and I had actually already done my first two corners, so I'd taken the peak out the tyres, whereas many of the other drivers were still on their warm-up lap.
“When the red flag went in, we went to push again. Obviously, we were a bit back in the garages, so I had to rush my warmup. I was right behind another driver when he was starting a lap, so there was no chance for me to improve really.
“I think today we had the pace to be third or fourth I would say car-wise. Obviously P6 is a good result, but I’m a bit disappointed with that because I seem to always - like Silverstone we were P1 after the second set and in Bahrain - I seem to always fall a bit short in that last step. I guess that’ll come with experience, but at least we have two good races to be in the points.”
Maini has endured a chequered rookie Formula 3 campaign so far. At present, he sits 15th in the Drivers’ Standings on 17 points, courtesy of a P5 finish in the Imola Feature Race and P4 in the Silverstone Sprint Race. However, he believes that his results don’t tell the full story of the confidence and performance he’s had behind the wheel.
“I think when you look at my points in the Championship, it doesn't show at all the pace we've had this year. Considering that, I think it’s a good weekend to pick up some points up. If you look at it that way, I'm happy, but if you look at it from my potential point of view, I'm still not content.”
Swapping sweltering temperatures for a soaked Sprint and Feature Race appears to be the forecast for the remainder of the Budapest weekend and this change could play right into Maini’s hands. While the Hungaroring’s 14 corners aren’t conducive to overtaking, the weather’s unpredictability has the potential to mix up the order and the MP Motorsport driver is keen capitalise on the chaos and get a stroke of luck to be in contention up front.
"I think it's the same for everyone. For me, honestly, I'd rather it be wet for the first race ‘cause at least there's some chance to overtake. If it’s dry, it’s gonna be a bit of a stalemate. At least there will be a bit more of a mess and a bit more of an opportunity for me to climb up and get nearer to that podium. In a wet one – yes. In a dry one to be realistic, if there are few shunts in front - yes, but luck has to come into play for me to be on the podium on Sunday.
“It's a beautiful track, one of my favourite tracks to drive. I think in the race it's a bit duller because there's no chances to overtake but that's why I think the decent Quali will keep us in the mix, and at least we can leave with a good bag of points.”