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Maximilian Guenther: Formula E’s fast learner

As Formula E’s youngest driver, Guenther is well placed to be this year’s champion. He relishes the precision and calculation required to race electric cars through city streets. And he’s already winning on the track.

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In a world that’s racing towards a future of cleaner air and lower emissions, Formula E, with its electric vehicles, may prove to be the future of motor racing. Among the 24 drivers competing on the city streets that serve as race tracks, Maximilian Guenther, aged just 23, is a challenger to be 2019/2020 champion of this intense new motorsport. 

A native of Oberstdorf, a village in the Bavarian Alps, Maximilian has been Formula E’s youngest driver since signing with BMW I Andretti Motorsport for the 2019/20 season. At the end of June, when we spoke to him, he was already a serious contender having won the Santiago E-Prix and come second in Marrakesh. He is now standing fourth in the championship with six races remaining, all in Berlin.

Preserving battery power while racing
Formula-E is different from, and more complex than, racing combustion engine cars. Not only does it have the close combat of motor racing, but also the driver has to judge how best to preserve battery power. What’s more, the races are mostly in city streets, meaning wheel-to-wheel racing, tighter turns and plenty of unforgiving concrete.

“The way we are racing with energy saving is a nice challenge,” states Guenther. “And racing on street circuits with those very complicated cars – sometimes unpredictable cars – really demands a lot from the driver, and that’s something I really enjoy. I believe this championship is just more unpredictable than any other racing series.”

A meteoric rise
The 2019/2020 season is Guenther’s second in Formula E and sixth in motor racing. Like many drivers, he began his career in karts at the age of 10, progressing after three years to the world of open wheel racing in 2011 with the Formula BMW Talent Cup. 

From there, Guenther’s career rapidly progressed. In 2013, he competed in the ADAC Formel Masters, ending the season second. In 2015, he made his debut in European Formula 3 with Mucke Motorsport, before joining Prema Powerteam for 2016 and 2017. In 2017, he finished a respectable fifth on the testing street circuit of the Macau Grand Prix, before moving up to Formula 2 in 2018 and joining BWT Arden. 

I believe that e-mobility is not only the future, it’s already the present, and we will see this soon in normal life, as road cars turn to electrical cars.

Maximilian Guenther

In many ways, the Macau Grand Prix foretold his future debut on Formula E’s urban tracks. “It’s a race I always wanted to win,” he comments. “It’s a different style of racing because you have to be super precise; to use every millimetre on the track in order to be quick. But if you use a bit too much you crash and it’s game over. This is a challenge I really like to push as much as I can, while still knowing where the limit is.” 

Within the Formula E series, Guenther initially competed in the 2018/19 season, completing 10 races with the Dragon team, and finishing 17th in the championship. Now with BMW and challenging for the title, he feels a good fit for the company of similar Bavarian origin that is known for its precision engineering.

“I started my career in 2011 with the BMW Talent Cup, finishing second there, and now eight years later to arrive back in the BMW family as a factory driver in this fantastic championship in Formula E is very special to me as a German driver, especially as a Bavarian driver,” he says. “I think it’s a good fit as people here are very structured, very precise, very detailed. And this really fits well with my character, because I’m a perfectionist myself.”

The future’s electric
Since Formula E’s first race in Beijing in 2014, it has demonstrated the potential of e-mobility to create a sustainable, better world. After five seasons, it has become a high-profile platform for car manufacturers to test their technologies. The series acts as a catalyst, helping to refine the design of electric vehicles and improve the performance of electric road cars.

As they race the world’s city streets, in what’s still a sideshow to mainstream motor racing, the 24 drivers may well be the pioneers for both the future of the sport and the future of mobility. They’re exciting a new generation about the potential of electric vehicles, whilst contributing to the fight against climate change and for clean air.

As the youngest driver, Geunther, more than any of the others, is a member of that new generation. “I believe that e-mobility is not only the future, it’s already the present, and we will see this soon in normal life as road cars turn to electrical cars,” he says. “For racing I believe this transition will still take a few years, but probably the next generation of racing drivers will be only electric.”

That said, Guenther also wants to win. “I just keep pushing to get better in all areas as a BMW factory driver so that I can win races and, in the next few years, the championship,” he concludes.