Raffaele Marciello says he is excited to have been signed as a Mercedes-AMG factory driver but admits that it won’t make too much difference to his upcoming Blancpain GT Series program.
The Italian was added to Mercedes’ works driver roster a few weeks ago and joins the likes of Maximilian Buhk, Maro Engel and Bernd Schneider.
It comes after a breakout year in GT3 racing, in which Marciello was one of the standout stars of July’s Total 24 Hours of Spa.
“It’s really cool to be with Mercedes,” he told Sportscar365. “It’s a really big company so for me it’s a big moment.
“It lets me focus on my career and push even more because I have to deliver results for Mercedes. I have to focus and give everything I have.”
Nevertheless, he doesn’t expect the change will make his relationship with his AKKA ASP team much different, given the French outfit’s closeness to the manufacturer last season.
The Jerome Policand-led squad has effectively become the lead Mercedes team in the Blancpain GT Series this year, running five cars in the Endurance Cup and three in the Sprint Cup.
“It’s almost like AKKA was already a factory team last year so we worked really closely with Mercedes,” Marciello explained.
“I knew all the people from Mercedes last year so that, for me, is not so new. It’s only a matter of being a factory driver and having the Mercedes [logo] on my overall and my helmet.
“It’s really cool but it’s nothing super different compared to last year.”
Marciello will enter the full Blancpain GT season, joining Tristan Vautier and Daniel Juncadella for the Endurance Cup and Michael Meadows in the Sprint races.
While he didn’t score any wins last year, Marciello did finish on the podium at both Silverstone and Spa, after driving over half of the race in the Belgian endurance classic.
“I feel quite comfortable [in having] a consistent pace, and in qualifying I can be really quick but maybe I can still improve on traffic management in qualifying because normally we have 55 cars on track so it’s really difficult to find free space,” he said.
“In this I think I can improve a bit. Luckily, in Endurance races, qualifying doesn’t matter so much but it’s nice to start from the front.
“In GT racing we have many good drivers so I always try to improve and do my best to deliver a good performance.”
IGTC Title Attack Possible After Bathurst Podium
Marciello could complete the Intercontinental GT Challenge season after finishing second in the season-opening Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in February.
The 23-year-old partnered Vautier, Kenny Habul and Jamie Whincup in the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
While his Spa entry is set through his Blancpain GT program, Marciello currently has no confirmed plans to enter the remaining races at Suzuka and Laguna Seca but would still like to challenge for the title.
“It’s a possibility, but I still don’t know,” he said. “At Spa, I will drive for sure, but Laguna and Suzuka, [they are] still a long time [off].
“We are in a good position for the championship in second position so I think we can fight for the Intercontinental GT championship.
“We’ll see after Spa what happens but we’re in a good position.”