In the first ever Grand Prix, held in 1906 in France, the field was made up of 35 drivers: all male, all white and all rich. More than 100 years later, not much has changed: the sport has been slow to boost diversity and inclusion heading into the 21st century. Maffi Racing, a new Formula 4 team from Switzerland, hope to give the European single-seater scene a push on that front. F1 Feeder Series spoke to the team’s managing director Alexandre Thouvenin about their plans for the upcoming years.
By Alexander Studenkov
Consistent with the team’s expansive ideals, Maffi has a fairly unorthodox history: despite appearing as a “Swiss” team from afar, Maffi’s origins hark back to Giorgio Maffi and the Ethiopian rally scene in the 1960s, when the motorsport veteran set up a team bearing his own name and started winning championships.
The squad kept racing in the nation until 2015, when their attention turned elsewhere. Giorgio’s son Cristian set up a workshop for race cars in Geneva, where he fixed classic cars and started working on karts. Soon he partnered up with his brother Daniel and Alexandre Thouvenin.
Moving to F4
It was in 2021 that the trio decided to transform Maffi into a European race team. “Discussions to create our own racing team started in May 2021,” explains Thouvenin. “The idea has its origin in a meeting between Daniel and a young talented Swiss driver, with impressive results in karting, but who lacked the opportunities to compete in Formula 4 due to funding. This led us to learn more about F4, and we quickly realized it represented an interesting opportunity, as the popularity of motorsport is on the rise again.”
The driver in question, Elia Sperandio, who has won the Swiss karting title four times, has since been announced to be one of the team’s three drivers for Italian F4 in 2022, with two further drivers yet to be announced.
Drive for diversity
For Maffi, being a traditional race team is not enough. In a time where many feeder series teams have retained an antiquated approach towards giving every kind of driver an opportunity, the Swiss outfit have emphasised multiple times that they want to give all talents a chance.
“We believe it’s a good time to create a racing team with modern values, a high emphasis on diversity and inclusion, promoting women and men from various backgrounds and helping them compete at a high level of motorsport,” says Thouvenin about the team’s core values.
Asked which drivers Maffi attempts to target, Thouvenin gave a clear answer: “What we can say for now is that we absolutely want women to compete for us every year, as well as an international driver. Therefore, we highly encourage women and men drivers to get in touch with us.”
Strategy for the future
This season, Maffi will compete in two fields of motorsport: Formula 4 and karting. They’ll only race in the Italian championship in F4, but Thouvenin reveals that they have bigger things planned for the coming seasons.
“Later during this year, we’ll evaluate the option of also competing in the F4 UAE Championship next winter. We haven’t planned on competing in another championship as of now, but we’ll of course study the option of the ADAC F4 and Spanish F4 in the future.”
The ladder to F1 is not the only aspect of motorsport that interests Maffi however: “We believe in the emergence of sim-racing, not only as a tool to train our drivers, but also as an entry point for the greater public wanting to experience the thrill of racing.”
He adds: “In future years, we aim to expand our activities outside of karting and Formula 4, stepping up to higher single-seater series, and why not try ourselves in GT championships?”
Maffi is a great example of a race team that tries to take a novel route on its path to the top, not only looking for money from drivers, but also aiming to promote talent that wouldn’t have received the opportunity to prove themselves elsewhere. Thouvenin gives a sincere, final summary of the team’s ambitions:
“Our team believes that motorsport is at a turning point. The rise in popularity offers a lot of interesting opportunities in this field. We want to be part of this new era for racing, and we aim to help young drivers, men and women, to build their career in this sport.”
Maffi Racing will contest their first race in Italian F4 on the 7th of May at Imola.
Header photo credit: Maffi Racing