Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Meghana Sree
India’s recent growth in the field of motorsport has seen the subcontinental nation receive plenty of attention and acclaim. More riders and drivers are emerging from the nation, with a number of them making it to larger racing series across the world.
Despite only two drivers from the world’s most populated country having graced the pinnacle of motorsport, we could well and truly see more drivers make it to renowned motorsport series in the future.
So, who are these Indian racers doing wonders across the globe? Where do they race? Let us take a look at some of these names representing the country at the national level.
Formula 2 - Jehan Daruvala, Kush Maini
Between 2020 and 2022, one Indian driver raced on the Formula 2 grid. That was the case until 2023, when this Indian racer was joined by another, doubling the count for Indians on the current Formula 2 grid.
Yes, the stepping stone to Formula One, Formula 2, sees two Indian racers taking part in 2023: Jehan Daruvala and Kush Maini.
Daruvala could be classified as a “one in a million” having been one among the winning trio of an aptly-named talent hunt, held by the erstwhile Force India Racing Team in 2011. The young Indian became a Force India protégé, and commenced his karting career at the age of 13, later that year.
He won, and placed runners-up in several junior racing series within the Indian subcontinent and on European soil in the following years. Daruvala regularly finished in the top 10 in Formula Renault 2.0, and moved up to European Formula 3 in 2017. A brief spell followed in this series, where the Indian driver finished sixth and tenth in 2017 and 2018, having been largely inconsistent in the latter season.
Daruvala then graduated to the inaugural FIA Formula 3 championship in 2019, driving for Prema Racing, alongside Marcus Armstrong and Robert Shwartzmann. The Indian racer took two successive wins at Barcelona and Paul Ricard, and even took a pole position at the fearsome Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, on his way to third in the standings.
His performance was good enough to earn a promotion to Formula 2, in a reunion with Carlin. He was also recruited into the wide pool of Red Bull Junior Academy drivers. Daruvala is currently in his fourth season of Formula 2, having driven for Carlin, a sole year at Prema Racing, and now for MP Motorsport. And while he was axed from the Red Bull Junior Team at the end of 2023, Daruvala was signed as Mahindra’s reserve driver, and aims to be on the 2024 Formula E grid.
The MP Motorsport driver was joined by rookie Kush Maini in 2023, the latter driving for the Spanish-owned Campos outfit. Maini left his hometown Bengaluru, to stay at his mechanic’s place in Italy at the age of 12. This pushed Maini to eke it out alone, as well as prove his mettle in feeder series across mainland Europe.
Maini took to single-seater racing in 2016, in the Italian F4 Championship. A two-year stint in Italy was then followed by a stint in British F3, his best performances coming in the British Feeder Series. An 11th position finish in 2021 was bookmarked by stellar seasons, Maini finishing third and second in 2018 and 2020 respectively. He also took part in the F3 Asian Championship in 2021, driving for Mumbai Falcons alongside Daruvala, finishing 11th in the standings.
Maini’s British F3 efforts paid off with a step up to a Formula 3 seat in 2022 at Campos. Maini endured a largely rough season, finishing 14th in the standings, and was involved in an incident at the season finale at Monza. He took third place at Hungary, his best finish of the season.
The Indian racer was promoted to Formula 2 for 2023, staying within the Campos fold. He would partner up with veteran Ralph Boschung at the Spanish team. Maini impressed on debut, finishing seventh and fourth at Bahrain. More points followed in the succeeding rounds, with a podium finish at Australia his best result of the season so far. Although points have run dry in Maini’s past few races, the Indian will be looking to learn from his rookie season, and have a stronger second season in the series in 2024.
The Indian has set his aspirations on the pinnacle of motorsport, gunning for a Formula One seat in the future. He dreams of representing his country at the pinnacle of motorsport, and going on to achieve big things on the biggest scene of all. Racing is in the Maini blood, as his brother Arjun races in DTM, and father Gautam has supported the younger Maini all the way through. One would definitely wish to see Maini on the F1 grid one day, and achieve his lifelong dream.
DTM - Arjun Maini
While the younger Maini races in Formula 2, the elder of the Maini brothers has moved into the world of sports car racing. Arjun Maini currently drives for Mercedes in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series.
The 25-year old fell in love with motor racing when his father gave him an electric car. Maini is also the nephew of Indian businessman Chetan Maini, who pioneered the iconic REVA car (G-Wiz in the UK) in 2001, and thus, the family’s association with automobiles goes way back.
Maini received his first go-kart at the age of five, and began to win karting series at the age of eight. He also achieved success abroad, becoming the youngest Indian to win a karting race abroad, having done so at Malaysia in 2008.
His career took an uphill trajectory in 2011, when Maini won the J.K.Tyre Rotax Max National Karting Championship, and also became the joint-winner of Sahara Force India’s “One in a million” talent hunt program, alongside Daruvala.
Having raced across karting series worldwide, he then stepped into single-seaters in 2013, finishing runner up in the JK Tyre Racing Series championship. He raced in the BRDC Formula 4 series a year later, finishing runner-up yet again, missing out on the championship by three points to teammate George Russell. He also raced in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand in 2015, finishing fourth in the standings. A short-lived European Formula 3 stint amounted to 18th in the standings.
Maini stepped up to GP3 in 2016, driving for Jenzer Motorsport for two seasons. A relatively successful two-year run in the series saw him place tenth and ninth in the standings, despite missing four races in the former. In 2017, he took part in a post-season test for F2 teams Trident and Russian Time, signing with the former for 2018.
Maini was also signed on as development driver for the Haas F1 Team, alongside Trident teammate Santino Ferrucci. However, the duo didn’t have the best of times together, as Ferrucci was suspended halfway through the season, and subsequently fired, following multiple sporting infringements, and deliberately crashing into Maini at Silverstone. The Indian racer scored 24 points in the season, a trio of fifth places being his best during the season.
Maini also stepped in at Trident for the first six races in 2019, for Dorian Boccolacci, but failed to score any points. He was replaced by Japanese youngster Marino Sato.
The Indian racer later switched focus to endurance racing, driving in the 24 Hours of Le Mans later that year, as well as in the Asian Le Mans series, winning at Shanghai.
Maini later embarked on a run in DTM back in 2021, signing with Mercedes. The 25-year old has remained with Mercedes for three seasons so far, and has taken one podium finish since, back in the season finale at Norisring in 2021. Maini also raced in the GT World Challenge Europe, currently second in the standings, driving for Haupt Racing Team, as he looks to further his endurance racing exploits.
GB3 - Dion Gowda
While the Maini brothers have made it to the higher echelons of motorsport, another youngster from Bengaluru is doing wonders in the lower rungs of feeder series. Aged 14, Dion Gowda is a young star in the GB4 series, having taken multiple victories in 2023.
Gowda is the youngster racer for Rodin Carlin in the British Formula 4 series, and has already begun to showcase glimpses of a star in the making. Dion’s racing resume would stand out for someone as young as him, as he sits fourth in the standings now. The number four looks to be a number associated with him, as he also has four poles and wins apiece in 2023.
Gowda’s interest in motorsport was piqued at the early age of nine, when he visited a Singaporean karting track, and was inspired when he watched Formula One champions such as Lewis Hamilton on television.
He moved to London soon after, to pursue his dream of becoming a Formula One driver by himself. Gowda possesses a glittering karting resume, having raced in karting series in and around South East Asia, finishing fourth in the ROK Cup Singapore.
The height of his karting career would come in 2020, when Gowda competed in the World Championship Karting, for the FIA Karting Academy Trophy. He took a pole position at Kristianstad, driving for Ricky Flynn Motorsport, among multiple race wins and fastest laps. He finished fifth in the standings.
Gowda moved to WH Sports in 2022, to prepare for a stint at Rodin Carlin in British F4 the following year. And in 2023, he is doing wonders for the Carlin outfit, sitting fourth in the standings, with 221 points to his name.
Gowda races alongside fellow Indians Kai Daryayani and Jaden Pariat in the series, the latter duo sitting outside the top 20 in the standings, though. Gowda was also announced to drive in the much-awaited inaugural season of the Formula 4 Indian Championship. With a stellar racing record, one would expect the young Indian speedster to rise up the ranks in the near future.
These are just a few big names making it to the bigger leagues in motorsport. Plenty more will be looking to follow in their footsteps in the near future, to fly the Indian tricolour high, and make their country proud.