Responsible for Pirelli Motorsport’s business development, Lidia Mariani alternates between the company’s headquarters in Milan and race tracks all over the world. She also, however, spends a considerable time performing synchronised routines in pools. Females in Motorsport spoke with Mariani to learn about how she brings an athlete’s perspective to the corporate side of motorsport.
First and foremost, Lidia Mariani is an athlete.
An artistic swimmer since the age of four, Mariani competed professionally until she turned twenty. While she chose to set aside her professional career to study economics at Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Italy, she entered the Masters category at age twenty-five, and has been competing internationally since. And now, Mariani still cites the sport as vital to her character.
“Sports make you learn that you can arrive,” Mariani tells Females in Motorsport. “You will reach the goal only if you believe in yourself. And this is the hardest part, because believing in yourself is not that easy. Sometimes you doubt—‘Hey, maybe I’m not able to do that, and I don’t have confidence to do that.’ That’s not true.”
With this swimmer’s mindset, she forged her path to Pirelli. After earning her degree in Marketing, Business Communication and Global Markets in 2013, she went on to complete a master’s in Marketing and Communication at Università Bocconi in 2014. That same year, she would intern for and later join Pirelli’s Marketing Department as a Trade Marketing Specialist.
While her primary responsibilities then included managing marketing budgets and retail strategies, she became intrigued by Pirelli’s role in motorsport when helping launch the P Zero Experience at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
“I said, ‘Wow, what a sport’,” she recalls. “It’s the place you want to be.”
Thus, despite (admittedly) not being “that passionate about cars” at first, she transferred to the Multibrand Motorsport Activation team in 2018. The following three years of advertising and promoting Pirelli in the main GT Championships across the world transformed that intrigue into a longstanding passion for motorsport.
“Once you are an athlete and you find a job that is close to the athlete world, it’s impossible that you don’t become passionate about your work,” Mariani says.
In 2021, Pirelli tapped her to join the Commercial Department. Having been granted the responsibility for business development, Mariani was delighted.
“I got the opportunity to see ‘the other part’,” she says. “I had the chance to complete, at least from the commercial and marketing point of view, my knowledge of the customer racing world’s tyre side.”
Now, Mariani is responsible for ensuring the profitability of Pirelli-sponsored championships. She likes to separate her work into month-long blocks. At the start of every month, she and her team conduct forecasts of the overall cost to supply each championship. She closes every month with sales, always aiming at an amount enough to outweigh those costs and thus earn Pirelli a profit. Every day, Microsoft Excel is her constant companion.
In between, Mariani works on various development projects to further expand Pirelli’s motorsport business, with a particular focus on strategic work. One of these projects includes her efforts to enlarge the company’s motorsport sharing in previously untapped regions; she highlights the Middle East as a key target. She also seeks to coordinate with non-motorsport markets—particularly Pirelli’s ever-expanding road tyre market.
Or, in her own words, “I’m a number cruncher”.
In addition to this number crunching, Mariani must oversee Pirelli’s business relations. Perhaps one of the company’s most significant partners is SRO Motorsports Group. Responsible for organising a variety of GT and Touring Car series—such as the Intercontinental GT Challenge, whose events include the 24 Hours of Spa and Bathurst 12 Hour—SRO first contracted Pirelli to supply its GT tyres in 2013. A contract extension in 2018 has allowed Pirelli to consolidate its position as the sole supplier for all ultra-competitive SRO series.
“I think it’s great to work with [SRO],” Mariani says. “I think we grew together, and the relationship we had with them—in the motorsport world, once you enter, it’s like a big family—is not very formal. If we have a problem, we just take the phone and we solve it.”
As for her own future with Pirelli? Well, Mariani’s focus remains wholly on continuing with her work.
“Sometimes, you say, ‘Okay, but I’m very tired’ because, you know, we never stop. We work during the week at the office… the weekend, we are at the track,” she says. “But then you feel, you ask for yourself, What do you want to do? You want to change job[s], or?’
“And I cannot see myself in another at the moment.”
During her weeks at the office, she finds joy in the “opportunity to learn about numbers and figures”. During her weekends on the track, she relishes the feeling of responsibility for tyres’ role in race strategy and progression—and therefore, the championships’ final results. On a broader scale, she adores the look into “the 360 degrees of the [Pirelli-sponsored] championships” that her job offers.
Of course, Mariani still agrees that “there is compromise in everything”. Yet even with the highly demanding and meticulous nature of her work, Mariani does not believe that she herself has had to compromise much in pursuing her career. That’s because she finds that the values of motorsport align with the values of what she loves most: artistic swimming.
“Discipline is the first one,” she says. “And resilience.”
With swimming, she says: “You do it, and you don’t think anything about what you are doing. And you cannot stop. I will stop it once I cannot—I will have so [much] pain in my back, my legs, my arms. But it’s all about passion. I cannot do anything if I’m not passionate about it.”
“It’s quite similar, the team we are here in [Pirelli], and the team that we have in [swimming],” Mariani says. Both teams exemplify that same passion—that same consistency and refusal to give up—that she learned to cherish as a young athlete.
“This is what I also search [for] when I want people working with me in my team,” Mariani adds. “I consider more important the passion, the fact that you are—you see the goal you try to reach in some way, without giving up. People complaining that ‘Ah, this is easy’—no.
“You need to be passionate about it. You need to be consistent. And that, in sports, is important.”
So to Mariani, motorsport is integral to her very being. “Staying in a world in which sport is present, passion is present” is what she has known to be her only way of life since childhood.
“The passion that you see out around the paddock, and the similarity you see in the sports world in general—I was born like this,” she says. “I cannot change.
“And I won’t change.”
All imagery is by Emma Ridgway for Females in Motorsport.