Why Raffaele Marciello never broke into Formula 1 remains a mystery, but what is certain is that his talent hasn’t been going to waste. In just his second year racing GTs, the Italian crowned himself Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup champion with the win in the season finale at the Nürburgring.
After a break-out 2017 season in which Marciello starred in the Spa 24 Hours with a third-place finish, the 23-year-old from the Swiss bordertown of Caslano, was quickly scooped up by Mercedes-AMG to join its works roster. Sharing the AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Michael Meadows, the towering Marciello took two victories en route to the 2018 Blancpain GT Sprint Cup title.
“I’m really happy to win the championship with Michael, AKKA and Mercedes. This was very important for us and everyone I’m working with. Sprint has never been really good for Mercedes: Audi has always been very quick in this championship,” Marciello says.
“We did a lot of work: we made changes to the set-up, made some driver changes, changed how we drive in the weekend—and it worked well.”
Coming back from the mid-field to a fourth-place finish in the first race at the Nürburgring, AKKA ASP had lost some ground to WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 racers Christopher Mies and Alex Riberas who were leading the championship. More importantly, however, was Marciello’s front-row starting position for the final race whereas Mies had to come from 13th on the grid after the local hero had a brake problem in qualifying that sent him crashing into the tyre barriers.
“We knew that we were going to lose some points yesterday because they were starting in front and we from P11. I tried to finish as high as possible,” Marciello continues.
“Today was all about winning, and then see what the number 1 Audi would do.
“We can do better pitstops than Black Falcon, so it was important to stay close to Luca Stolz at pit entry and then the mechanics did a great job.”
Having watched team-mate Meadows leave the pits in front of the Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3, a tense half hour followed for Marciello.
“After the pitstops we had to wait and see what the Audi would do. We were lucky that they touched with the other Audi and we won the championship.”
While winning only two out of ten races in 2018, Marciello went to the podium four more times and scored points in all of the sprint races, underlining the team’s consistency throughout the season.
“To win a title you have to be quick over the whole year and make no mistakes. I made one mistake in Misano when I broke the splitter. For the rest, I think I drove quite well.
One last Blancpain GT race is still on the schedule: the 3-hour endurance race at Barcelona. Marciello goes to the Catalan race to defend his team’s win last year and his lead in both the overall Blancpain GT and Endurance championships.
“There’s new tarmac at Barcelona so it’s completely different from last year. We’re fighting for the overall and Endurance championship, so it’s not so much about winning the race—it’s more about seeing what the others are doing and to try to score more points than the Audi number 1, BMW, and the Mercedes number 4 and then we’ll see where we are.”