The official pre-season test for the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship has always been good to Maximilian Guenther, in the last two seasons he has flown out of the blocks at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, but with a move to Nissan e.dams for 2021/22, it's all change for the German ace as he gets set for 'a new chapter'.
With two and a half seasons in Formula E, Maximilian Guenther has already asserted himself as a race winner and part of the next generation of racers in the all-electric series.
From his time in Formula E, the German has stood on the podium four times, with three trips to the top step. His first trophy came at the 2020 Santiago E-Prix - becoming the youngest race winner at the age of 22 years, 200 days - and his latest victory in the New York E-Prix last season.
Now the 24-year-old German from Oberstdorf gets set for a brand new challenge after signing with Nissan e.dams in September, the first step this coming week as the grid assembles for the official pre-season test around the familiar Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain.
"I'm looking forward to testing in Valencia," said Guenther ahead of the opening day on Monday. “It’s quite a big week because it will be the first and only time in the car before the first race.
"Testing is limited for all teams, so we’ve spent a lot of time in the simulator and we've used this well to set a good baseline. In Valencia, we can work on all the basic areas to get myself comfortable with the team, in my new car and build on our communication.
"It will be very important to get a feel and get into the rhythm with the car, to understand it and push it right down to the very limit. I think there's a huge programme for us next week, and the three days we have on the track."
In the paddock, Guenther's analytical approach to racing is well known and this is evident in his and the team's plans for the three days of track time in Valencia.
"The programme for Valencia will be huge in terms of things to optimise. From my own list, I know what I want to achieve and how I want to grow. Focusing on an adaptation process to feel comfortable in the car and to really understand it from inside the cockpit but also from the outside with the engineers.
"At the end of the day, the goal is to be able to push at the very limit under all circumstances because this is what Formula E is all about. It’s not only about driving this car, when it comes down to racing it’s about a lot more. We have a good number of things to test coming up for us in Valencia."
However, it's not a case of starting completely from scratch for Guenther, as he highlighted: "I’ve got two and a half seasons worth of experience in Formula E. I know what I like and what I need to perform the best. For sure, there are elements that I will carry over, but of course, this is a whole new environment for me.
"There’s a new car and a new team, and there have been a lot of things for me to learn in the last week. Some aspects were just like going back to school. The steering wheel, for example, is the same but all the buttons, switches, everything is set up with different functions, different labels. Some things like this you must learn from almost zero!
"That’s why the last few weeks have been very, very intense but also very good in my ‘new office’. I’m combining the best of both worlds; from what I know to how the team works. It’s just all about finding a good baseline right from the beginning and then moving together in the right direction."
This “new office” brings a complete change in wardrobe for Guenther, swapping out the blues and whites of last season to Nissan e.dams’ darker tones of red and black present on the Japanese marque’s kimono-inspired livery.
Guenther was quick to acknowledge that he already matches the hues of the team, saying with a large smile: “I love my new colours, my famous red helmet matches well to the red and black car!
“There are a lot of emotions right now because obviously, it’s a new team to work with. But I’m really looking forward to this new chapter and if it was down to me, I’d want to be on track as soon as possible!”
The German is still measured when talking about his new team, joining an outfit with a long and successful history in Formula E, especially in the hands of his new teammate Sebastien Buemi.
The Swiss driver has been around since day one, and alongside raising the championship trophy in 2015/16, he has amassed an impressive 13 wins and 29 podiums. Guenther's focus is ultimately on himself heading into his new journey, but he knows that there is a lot to learn from Buemi.
“My philosophy has always been to concentrate on my own development, growing as a racing driver but also on a personal level, and this focus will stay on myself. But, of course, it is very inspiring to have someone next to me like Seb, with a lot of racing experience and success,” admitted Guenther.
The relationship has already got off to a good start, with Guenther absorbing Buemi’s knowledge and the pair having hit it off: “I’ve already experienced this in the first few weeks together, it’s been great the way we can exchange information and ideas, improving how we work as a team. I’m enjoying our working relationship and would definitely say it’s been inspiring.”
The Valencia test has been good to Guenther for the last two seasons with the German topping the timesheets on both occasions. He was quick to acknowledge the important footnote on testing, as it is just that, and leaving with the quickest time is a nice bonus but the priority lies elsewhere.
“Testing is only testing, that’s why my priority list is clearly on other things rather than the results. It is all about the things we want to address as a team to feel as prepared as possible for the first race.
“Of course, at the end of testing, it’s never a bad thing to be at the top of the timesheet rather than towards the bottom end. But ultimately, this is low for us, the higher priority is getting down to the work we have to do.”
Guenther’s methodical mindset is also present when discussing his goals for next season, the German opened jokingly: “It might be a bit boring. Right now, I’m not thinking about results for me it’s really about optimising every weekend, every single race, and taking it step-by-step. This is what my focus is on in this moment, right now just perform at my very best.
“What will happen in the future can only be affected by what happens right now, so that’s why I will still take it step-by-step and optimise every opportunity we get every race weekend.
“As a competitor, you always want to be at the front and I’ve won a few races and been on the podium in the past, so of course, my goal is to be on the very top step of the podium next season as well.
“There are a lot of new things coming up for me, especially now at the beginning with testing ahead of the first races. It’s really just about putting all these pieces of the puzzle together to make it a successful one.”
Published on 29th November 2021
5 min read