Maro Engel is one of Formula E's most experienced drivers, having taken part in a variety of racing series; but how was the German's journey to top-level racing? Editor Andrea Perilli caught up with the Venturi driver to discuss his career up to where he is today.
Having become a top racing series in a relatively small period of time, Formula E now reunites some of the motorsports scene’s biggest names. Drivers from endurance, touring cars, GT, or single seater backgrounds race against each other in the innovative fully-electric championship.
Among these racers is Maro Engel. The German, with a vast experience mostly on touring cars and GTs, has been racing in Formula E for Venturi since 2016, with the series becoming a new challenge on his list.
“You do need to change your driving style, adapt your driving style so that you find the most efficient way”, he explains when asked what were the main learnings he got from the Formula E car.
“And as with everything, the more you practice it, the more you get into it, the better you get at it, so it, for sure, was a big part of the learning curve”.
As the saying goes by ‘practice makes perfect’, Engel has demonstrated you throughout his career have to go on with what you love doing to be successful at it.
Formula E marked his comeback to single-seaters, after almost ten years competing in touring cars, GTs, sportcars, and Supercars. However, the ladder up to top-level racing was similar to most drivers’.
Engel’s first contact with the word of racing came through go-karting. “[It] started off as fun. Something I really enjoyed doing on the weekends when my parents would take me there. It started very gently, you know, with having, doing some go karting on the weekends.
“Then deciding ‘We could do a club race’. After the club race went quite well, we said we could do a regional race, then a regional championship, which developed into a national championship, then international go karting”, he narrates.
“By then, the wish and the dream to become a professional racing driver really formed and you get more serious about it. You train more. You practice more. You spend more time with it”.
Born in Munich and raised in Monaco, he grew up with the legendary Formula 1 Grand Prix taking place in the principality. But did having these cars influence a young Maro to have a career in racing or it was an innate passion?
“It was amazing to see Formula 1 when I was growing up, and it probably had a certain influence, but my parents tell me that, even long before, I was always fascinated by cars whether they were on TV or whether it was just spending time in cars and standing on the driver seat”, he recalls.
He has become a professional, not only when his visor is down and the red lights are out, but also off track. This, in addition to his success in many series, make Engel an experienced driver. But he knows his journey to be where he is now was not easy –not only for him, but for most racers.
“It's extremely difficult to make it, quite honestly, and there's a lot of talented guys out there and only very few places to make a job out of their passion. Whether it's harder or easier now, I don't know. I think it's always been extremely difficult and it's certainly not the easiest career choice”, he conveys.
Sponsorship plays a major role in young drivers’ careers. Talent does, as well; but having enough backing is key to move up closer to the top. Over the years, we have seen many talented racers who can not make it to the pinnacle of motor racing as they cannot finance their careers.
“Obviously, a very rewarding one if you do make it and one thing I guess is for sure that it's even more expensive than it was in the past as the costs of junior karting, senior karting, and junior formulas. All these costs have continuously gone up throughout the years”.
The 32 year-old is aware of the struggles racing may represent financially, as he says he went through those tough times on his junior career. “Unfortunately, this beautiful sport comes with a big price and it's really tough. In junior years, personally, my family could not finance my racing so we were relying on sponsors”.
“I think a lot of drivers are relying on sponsors or people to support them, to believe in their career. It's a very difficult gamble in the end, because, like I said, only very few guys make it and there’s a lot of finance you need to come up with to get to the level where you could become a professional”.
Engel did make it and he has earned a name within the sport.
He is now on his second season in Formula E, and he surely aims to continue in this fast-growing sport. Earlier this year, he announced he would stop racing in DTM to focus on Formula E, a decision that shows how serious the fully-electric championship is being taken as.
“There was two clashes between Formula E and DTM and it was not possible to be in both places, both weekends at the same; so we took a decision that I will focus on Formula E, seeing as it is more part of the future and it's the last season for Mercedes in DTM.
“It opens up more possibilities for me to focus on Formula E. More resources, more time which is definitely a positive thing”, he adds.