Mariella has been surrounded by motorsport since the day she was born. With her dad being a racing driver, she spent many weekends at race tracks. Her mother also worked in motorsport on the PR and events side. This family passion led her to become a Team Principal at the age of just 25.
“I’ll always remember hearing the sound of a Le Mans car too when my dad was racing there,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “They’re so much louder than Formula 1 cars now and it felt very nostalgic hearing the LMP1 cars. The sound of a roaring engine brings back so many memories.”
This year brought the introduction of nine teams to W Series, with Veloce’s lineup being two strong drivers - reigning champion Jamie Chadwick and Bruna Tomaselli. Veloce’s vision is to raise awareness of gender equality within motorsport, and inspire younger girls and women to get involved.
With a new job comes challenges, but Mariella certainly isn’t one to shy away from these.
“Getting used to being responsible for certain things or going to a person for a lot of serious matters, you know you are at a race track; it is an intense environment,” she says.
“These people are professional sportswomen, and they take what they do very seriously. Being a part of that hasn't been a challenge but a wake-up call in terms of right now I need to deliver as a Team Principal, as a person that they can rely on as well.”
Veloce is having a great season so far, with Jamie winning two out of the four rounds, and leading the championship by one point ahead of Racing X driver, Alice Powell.
Bruna Tomaselli is currently 10th in the championship standings, with fifth as her best race result.
“It's not just being in an office all day being operational, at the race track it's all hands on deck,” she says. “I wouldn't say it is challenging; I’d just say it’s an exciting challenge, getting used to media interviews and speaking to people as well has been interesting.”
Once the announcement had been made, she received a text from someone familiar to the motorsport paddock: former racing driver and Venturi Racing Team Principal Susie Wolff.
“I had a text from Susie Wolff saying ‘hello my fellow Team Principal’ which was pretty amazing,” Mariella says. “A text from a person like Susie is amazing. You realise that she knows who I am properly now!”
Despite trailblazers like Susie and Mariella, stereotypes still lie within the industry, and it is only time that will change the culture that women do actually belong in motorsport. Mariella’s life has always been motorsport and, even now, she still feels ‘looked upon' as a woman.
“Being a female team principal and being with female drivers in what is a male-dominated world has also been a challenge in terms of if people are thinking ‘oh this is just a bunch of girls racing cars’ or ‘another classic female team principal’,” she says. “It’s been a challenge to be seen to be taken seriously in certain areas of the sport and I’m just getting used to it.”
W Series has been criticised for the segregation for its gender segregation. However, Mariella’s views are different to those that disagree with the championship.
“W Series has taken this [lack of women in motorsport] on at the most perfect time,” she says.
“It’s boosted a lot of confidence in a lot of female drivers. It’s not that there’s not a place for them in all the different categories, but it’s a safe zone for them right now.
“It’s really important for them to be able to show their talent on an international stage in front of an international audience.”
Additionally, in only its second year of competition, W Series is supporting the Formula 1 calendar with eight rounds races.
“It’s a massive thing,” Mariella says. “When Jamie won in Budapest, to be able to win in front of that packed crowd, to show the talent and that she’s an amazing driver - whether she’s against females or not - she can do this.”
There comes a point that something had to be done about the lack of women in the motorsport industry, and although W Series does segregate the women, it highlights the talent and pushes them to new places to go on and achieve new things: whether that’s driving, or career-based.
“It promotes women in motorsport not only as drivers but we have female team principals, mechanics and engineers,” she says. “There are a lot of men that are involved in it too and that’s great. It’s brilliant to have that mixture.
“As a female driver and having your talent exposed, that’s so important. Supporting F1 is the best exposure you can get, really!”
So what does Mariella’s role involve? Well, it’s pretty varied!
“My role is very much operational and much of that I’ve already been doing with my role at Veloce,” she says. “I’m Head of Operations with them so my role with W Series is almost working very closely with the drivers, is another figure for them, another person that can be there for them over a race weekend.
“I’m everything they need other than being able to change the set-up of the car to help them perform better.”
Before joining Veloce, Mariella worked at different corporate companies in marketing departments and also worked for Dare2BeDifferent (now FIA Girls on Track). This gave her the ambition to work higher up in the motorsport world.
“We used to get five or six schools to come to events - they’d bring around 20 girls each school and we would show them the different aspects of motorsport they can work in,” she says. “Whether it was STEM, mechanics, they went karting, and put tyres on the karts. We would really open up the different avenues that they could go down.”
Her advice for people wishing to work in motorsport in whatever form is to be persistent. Establish where your passion lies and what value you could bring to that area; sometimes you don’t need to go to university as there are other paths to follow.
“It’s quite an intertwined world as everyone seems to know everyone,” she says. “If you can get your foot in the door somewhere, whether it’s just being super persistent on going out of your way to go to as many races as you can and meet as many people as you can - just chuck your CV around in so many different directions.
“It really is a circle, it will come back to you whether it’s in a year's time, two years time, six months time. If you’re so persistent in this world, everyone knows everyone and you’ll get there.”
Find out about the careers available at Veloce here.
Images are courtesy of W Series.