Drivers Edoardo Mortara and Maximilian Günther ready for Saturday’s Hankook Mexico City E-Prix that begins Season 9.
Maserati GT Folgore Gen3 entry expects to live up to its name, as “folgore” means “lightning” in Italian.
Team to take “Racing Beyond” motto step farther with tech transfer.
Maserati MSG Racing’s Giovanni Tommaso Sgro orchestrated Thursday’s photo shoot in the paddock at Mexico City’s Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. On the left sat the iconic Italian luxury automaker’s shiny, new Formula E Gen3 race car. On the right shimmered the Gran Turismo Folgore, its soon-to-launch 2024 ground-breaking all-electric street car that’s priced at around $250,000.
As his drivers Edoardo Mortara and Maximilian Günther prepared for Saturday’s Hankook Mexico City E-Prix that kicks off Season 9, Sgro presented a visual capture of “what ‘Race Beyond’ means to us. We've used the term ‘Race Beyond’ because we've always been racing beyond the checkered flag. And I think the electric fleet, the Folgore fleet, is an indication of how we always push the boundaries and we're racing beyond from what we do on track to what we do off-track.”
It's what the other 11 teams set to pursue the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship are trying to do, as well. But for Maserati, the first Italian brand to compete in Formula E, this return to the racetrack for the first time in a dozen years renews the racing spirit that undeniably is in Maserati’s DNA.
Davide Grasso, Maserati’s CEO, looked at it as being “back where we belong as protagonists in the world of racing. We are powered by passion and innovative by nature. We have a long history of world-class excellence in competition, and we are ready to drive performance in the future.”
Srgo said, “For me that is incredible. I don't deny that there's tons of emotion, too. For me sometimes it's also very visible that people get choked up when they work for Maserati, when they talk about Maserati. It's infectious how much this brand really represents for all of us. I won't be able to sleep tonight, because tomorrow will be the first time we're back on track. And that's just going to be a day full of new firsts: when it's the first time the car will come out of the garage to go into the grid the first time, the drivers will get into the car the first time, we’ll complete a race tomorrow as a team. So it's a very exciting moment for all of us. It's going to be an exciting and an emotional day, for sure. For Maserati to be back to racing after so much time with such a rich racing heritage and history, I think we're all very lucky to have this moment happen tomorrow.
“Regardless of one thing I've learned and in testing in Valencia [Spain, late last fall on the Circuit Ricardo Tormo], whether you are a fan of Formula E or you're a fan of Maserati or you even know about Maserati's long racing history, it has left a mark over the last 100 years. So everyone's kind of looking at what it's going to do in Formula E,” he said. “Everyone's going to be interested. Italians, in particular, are interested in the fact that there's an Italian brand, an Italian luxury-automobile brand in the space. So I think that everyone's going to have their eyes on Mexico tomorrow when we race.”
Maserati’s racing debut 96 years ago, in 1926, saw company co-founder Alfieri Maserati drive the Tipo 26 to victory in the Targa Florio, the fabled open-road endurance race in the mountains of Sicily. Thirty-one years later, the iconic Juan Manuel Fangio won the F1 World Championship with Maserati in 1957, capped by his German Grand Prix victory, the last of his career.
The last time Maserati fielded a single-seater was with the 250F of Maria Teresa De Filippis, the first woman to qualify for a Formula 1 Grand Prix. The brand’s most recent appearance on track was with the MC12 limited-production sports car, which won 22 races (including three victories at Belgium’s 24 Hours of Spa) and 14 FIA GT trophies from 2004-2010.
But this leap ahead to the present actually is two leaps, into the future.
Sgro said, “When you're the first in a space, people look at you with a lot of expectations. And we're ready for that. But I think this is the exciting place—we get to race, we get to compete, but we also get to learn and apply innovative technology to what it is that we're doing for the future. We've made our mission to really move with the times, be a leader in the space of electric mobility. And I think it'll be fantastic for audiences in the U.S. and across the globe when they get into an electric car.”
Maserati engineers, he said, are especially excited to be helping shape the future: “Obviously I'm part of Maserati, but I really believe that they’re some of the best in the world, and I think when they have a chance to really be part of something new, that motivates them even more. We have this saying that we use very often: The Maseratis are masters of Italian audacity. Audacity means really pushing the boundaries beyond what you think is your comfort zone. And I think this is a thing that in particular that's made Maserati such a successful brand over the years.”
Jean-Marc Finot, senior vice-president of Stellantis Motorsport, confirmed that. He said, “It is a great pleasure for Stellantis Motorsport to play a part in getting Maserati back in the Race. Beyond this piece of history, Maserati Formula E will be our technological laboratory to accelerate the development of high-efficiency electrified powertrains and intelligent software for our road sports cars. Formula E is the perfect championship for this purpose.”
According to its website, Maserati will offer all production models—including the Grecale, GranTurismo, GranCabrio, and the MC20 super sports car—in 100% electric solutions.
Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle said, “We are delighted Maserati will join the Gen3 era of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship and play a defining role reimagining the future of motorsport.”
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem called the new Gen3 single-seater the pinnacle of sustainability, technology and performance” that will “usher in the next era.” And, Sgro said, the debut of the car makes this the perfect time to join the series. With every competitor facing the same unknowns with tuning and performance, the playing field should be a little more level for the new team – which actually is a new team.
“It's a nice evolution from the Gen2,” Sgro said. “And obviously we're in a good place, because we don't have anything to compare it to in terms of our participation in the sport.”
So all teams will spend some time getting used to the Gen3 edition of Formula E race cars, not just Sgro’s team that recently merged with Venturi Racing, which placed second in last year’s championship, then underwent some rebranding that involved TUI.
“Obviously, we have high expectations,” Sgro said of the 2023 campaign. “We have high confidence that this car is going to bring us some great moments tomorrow and for the rest of the season. And the drivers we have, Max and Edo, are fantastic. They have great seniority. They're extremely talented. I'm very happy to know them not only as race car drivers but also as individuals. Together with MSG Racing, obviously we're Maserati MSG and they're responsible for the day-to-day performance of the team.
“The drivers were an easy choice,” he said. “Eddo Morata was part of TUI last year. TUI became MSG racing. I don't know if the history, it's the same team, but they just had a name change. Edo is a phenomenal senior race car driver, in the sense that he really brings a high level of intensity and energy and competitiveness to the sport. Max is a new driver for us. He's new to Masada MSG racing. He’s young. He’s the youngest race car driver to everyone, in a Formula race. And he had the fastest lap time in Valencia and the first official testing last December.
"Edo had an enormous and phenomenal showing in Valencia testing, too. That's not an indication of how the season's going to be, but it certainly is a great way to start the season officially to have those times and to have the two drivers get into a new Gen3 car and get used to it, understand the braking, the power, the extra speed, the tires. So I'm extremely happy to have them as the two race-car drivers that we have. And I'm very confident that they're going to give us a lot of moments to be happy about in 2023.”
Sgro has no concerns that Mortara and Günther capably will navigate the 19-corner layout that’s the fourth different configuration at this seventh Formula E stop at Mexico City. Course designers added a chicane Turn 8, on the back straightaway, making this the longest Formula E set-up.
However, he said, “I think excitement keeps me awake at night, because it's exhilarating to be back on track. I think we want to always perform at our best. Obviously, everybody wants to win races, everybody wants to be a champion, everybody wants to win the championship. But I think that our 100-year-plus experience in motorsports as an automobile company kind of keeps you grounded. We've had lots of victories. We've had some losses. We've had some challenges as a brand in motorsports . . . like anybody who's in motorsports for so long. So I think that kind of teaches you a little bit about how to really embrace success and also learn from moments where we've been less successful. But what keeps me up at night is the fact that we are super-excited to be to back into racing and to be the only Italian brand in this space.”
Eleven cities will host Formula E races this season, including inaugural events in Hyderabad, Cape Town, São Paulo, and Portland, Ore. The series will return to Diriyah, Berlin, Rome, Jakarta, Monaco, and London.
And Sgro said that “one of the unique aspects is that the race tracks are city tracks that are they're not in a circuit like the one in Mexico.” But he said, “Mexico always brings a lot of energy and excitement and challenges.
“We're going to see some exciting turns and some exciting straightaways here and some exciting passes. And I think all the drivers are ready to compete against each other,” he said. “It's going to be really exhilarating. I believe that that's going to be some head turning moments tomorrow when we see these beautiful cars on track.”
And then maybe Sgro can get a decent night’s sleep.