With big changes coming to the DTM Series in 2017 as teams reduce the grid from 24 drivers to 18, Mercedes AMG has confirmed what drivers will take to the track for them.
It has been known since October that 2016 championship runner up Edoardo Mortara was making the switch from Audi to Mercedes but the question as to who would be joining him remained.
The Italian got his first taste of the Mercedes-Benz C 63 DTM during the official test week at Jerez in early December.
“I’m looking forward to the 2017 season and to working with my new team-mates,” said Edoardo. “We have a number of experienced drivers who I’ve enjoyed competing against in the past. I am convinced that together we can deliver excellent results for the team. It is important to have speedy team-mates, because that raises the level of performance for everyone.”
The 2005 champion Gary Paffett is set to enter his 14th campaign in the championship, as he takes over the mantel of longest serving member of the series from Martin Tomczyk.
Paffett commented: “Over the last few years, we have improved incrementally and have steadily assembled a strong team of engineers, mechanics and drivers. Building on this is something I am especially looking forward to. For me personally, it means switching from ART back to HWA. But I will also be working there with people I have known for some time.
“I hope that, at the start of the season, we will have a car with which we can be competing for race wins. All our drivers are very fast and competitive. Lucas [Auer] and Rob [Wickens] in particular massively improved their form from 2015 to 2016. They will certainly be strong again. Edoardo [Mortara} is another experienced driver and a title prospect for our team.”
After a positive season in 2016 where the Canadian was in a contender for the title, Wickens is optimistic ahead of the new campaign.
“It’s cool that I’m back,” said the Canadian. “2016 was one of my best years in the DTM. I want to build on this with the team in 2017. I cannot wait to get back to work with my new team-mates. The winter break has gone on for much too long.”
Paul di Resta is to embark on his eighth season in DTM with the Stuttgart based team with whom he won the 2010 championship before competing in Formula One for three seasons before returning to the series.
“New season, new rules, new challenges,” commented the Scotsman. “There are exciting times ahead for the DTM. We saw some good signs last year, and I am looking forward to picking up where we left off. Consistency is going to play a decisive role. I am excited about working with the team on the development of a completely new car. Our objective is to build something special so we can hopefully compete for the championship.”
Lucas Auer, nephew of F1 legend Gerhard Berger – who is rumoured to be being placed at the helm of DTM in takeover talks – is set to contest his third season in the championship and is aware of the expectations on him.
“Every year the expectations get higher,” said Auer, “but I’m still looking forward to my third year in the DTM. The important thing now is to settle into the HWA team quickly and then get maximum performance out of myself and my car. It will once again be sporting the BWT livery, and I have to say in all honesty that I cannot imagine the DTM without my Pink Panther!”
Having spent 2008 to 2011, with his highest championship finishing position being twelfth place, Maro Engel is keen to return to DTM racing.
“I definitely have some unfinished business with the DTM. I am very pleased that I’ve been able to battle my way back into the squad over the past few years and that I now have a chance to prove myself in the coming season. I have fantastic team-mates who I’ve obviously known for a long time. That’s why I’m sure I won’t have any problems settling in.”
In addition, Maximilian Günther has been announced as the new test and reserve driver. The 19 year old made his first DTM appearance in the Young Driver Tests at Jerez back in December. It was to reward the German for his strong performance in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship in which he finished runner up to Lance Stroll.
“It is a huge honour for me to be brought into the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team as test and reserve driver,” said Günther. “Just under two months ago, I was invited to take part in my first DTM test at Jerez, which was a lot of fun for me. The car was really impressive. Working with the team went really well. It was totally cool. To be now officially part of the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport family is a very special feeling for me. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead with even greater anticipation.”
Head of Mercedes AMG DTM, Ulrich Fritz added: “In Daniel Juncadella, Maximilian Götz, Felix Rosenqvist and Christian Vietoris, we are saying goodbye to four drivers who have competed successfully for the team in recent years. We would like to thank Dani, Max, Felix and Chris for their efforts and their dedication. They didn’t always have it easy, but they resolutely stuck to the task. I am convinced that this will continue to be the case in the future, and I wish them all the best for their new endeavours.”
The first official test will take place between 20th and 23rd February at Portimao, followed by another two more tests at Vallelunga and Hockenheim. The championship then gets underway as is customary at Hockenheim (5th-7th May).