Aged just 21, it could be easy to label Maximilian Günther as just another ‘rising star’ in motorsport. However, he is more than that. So much more.
The young German found himself in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship before being handed a promotion into FIA Formula 2 with Arden International in 2018. Despite this impressive racing resume, all this was cut-short when Günther got the call up for a ‘full-time’ drive in FIA Formula E with Dragon Racing for season five. I say ‘full-time’ in inverted commas as it gets a little confusing, you will see why later.
With a trusted source telling me Günther will be in the car until the season finale in New York this July, I took the time to catch up with the young racer to hear why he has decided to risk his career for Formula E despite still technically representing the team on a race-by-race basis.
“I really enjoy Formula E,” Günther starts with a beaming smile. “Formula E is a very modern championship with attack mode, different power levels and the very nice-looking cars. It is really cool and offers unpredictable races. There are a lot of different winners too. We don’t really know what to expect as spectators or as a driver, so it makes it very interesting!
“[Coming into Formula E] I expected something different from other championships. I knew about the championship a bit and did my testing last year. Over five years, the way the championship has improved in terms of attention shows that the concept is very good and I am very happy to be part of this.”
Günther had been a reserve and test driver for Dragon Racing throughout season four, but got his chance to test the car during the pre-season testing in Valencia ahead of season five, as well as during a rookie test in Marrakesh earlier that year. Everything was looking up when just a month before season five got underway Günther was confirmed to be racing alongside Jose Maria Lopez at Dragon. Jay Penske, Dragon’s Team Principal and founder, being quoted stating he was “very pleased to give Max the opportunity to race this season”.
Then just three races into the season five calendar Günther was out. Ex-F1 driver Felipe Nasr was in. Brutal. Günther remained a part of the team, still performing his duties as the team’s test and reserve driver. Then just three races after Nasr had made his mark in Formula E, he faced a clash of racing series. His existing commitment to the IMSA Sportscar championship at Long beach meant Nasr was not available to participate in the Rome ePrix. You guessed it, Günther was called upon. Despite no further clashes between Formula E and ISMA, Günther remained racing for the team in Paris and Monaco and will reprise his role in Berlin this weekend. For Günther, he is currently working with the team on a race by race basis, with nobody too sure if or when Nasr might suddenly return. However, during the Monaco ePrix weekend, I was reliably informed that Günther was to remain a Dragon driver until the end of this season. There is still yet to be any official statement on the matter.
Despite having a challenging car to drive, Günther put on the performance of the season in Paris to secure himself and the team ten championship points and a fifth place finish in one of Formula E’s most memorable and bonkers races. Describing the race as a “challenge”, the race saw a huge variation of conditions including rain and hail, making it Formula E’s first wet race in its five season history. “I couldn’t even go flat out anymore on the straights,” Günther tells me.
“Obviously it was in terms of points. Ten points and fifth place was great for our team and for myself. I enjoyed the weekend a lot because on the one hand the location was juts amazing, normally you are a little out of the city but in Paris you are in the heart of the city, and as well the weekend was challenging. You had the different weather conditions and this is what a racing driver really likes because then you can really make a difference because you can not predict everything in advance like in pure dry conditions.”
As for the future, there are several possibilities. He could remain within Dragon. Günther has proven his loyalties after being somewhat messed around but has received glowing references for his strong rapport he has built with the team in just a short amount of time. Other possibilities could involve looking for drives with some of the factory teams next year. Although Mercedes will merge with existing team HWA, Porsche will also be entering the championship in season six. Picking a young but highly-talented German driver that they can mould would likely be appealing, however seats at other factory teams on the grid might become available as the driver market gets a big shake up. Either way, Günther is too much of a brilliance to let slip through the fingertips of Formula E; but, we all know how cut-throat this sport can be.
Working on his race-by-race basis for the rest of the season, Günther explained that although the current situation is far from perfect, it does focus him to have a good weekend. The interview closes with one simple statement:
“I want to see my future in this championship.”