The final official line up for Mercedes-Benz Motorsport’s assault on the DTM for 2013 sees the total cars on the grid remain at 22, as Stuttgart has decided to only enter 6 C-Class AMG Coupes. But even though the “Three-Pointed Star” has become leaner for 2013, it seems that the aggressive strategy may be worth the risk.
Team Persson is no longer one of the teams for the iconic manufacturer, whose overall statistics are unrivalled in the most popular touring car series in the world, as both HWA and Mucke Motorsport take up the mantle of Mercedes’ ongoing fight against both Audi Sport and BMW Motorsport.
2005 Champion, Gary Paffett now heads towards his tenth campaign for the title, being the most successful out of the current generation of DTM’s finest, looking forward to what 2013 brings for him: “The new DTM season marks an anniversary for me. This will be my tenth season in the world’s most popular touring car series as a Mercedes-Benz driver. Last year, I led the standings from the opening race right through to the season finale at Hockenheim. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that bit of luck that would have seen us win the championship. Anyway, I’ll be pushing even harder this time and going all out for my second DTM title.”
Ralf Schumacher also remains in the series, in what will be his 6th season with Stuttgart. With his six race wins in Formula One, he is behind his elder brother Michael and current triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the current German F1 driver rankings. He really feels that DTM is his home, and is setting his sights high, training hard for the onslaught of racing: “The DTM is more competitive than ever before and experienced tremendous growth in its fan base last year, showing the enormous popularity that this racing series enjoys among motor racing enthusiasts everywhere. I am particularly looking forward to the new race in Moscow and DTM expansion into virgin territory.”
F3 Euroseries Champion for 2012, Spain’s Daniel Juncadella joins the youthfully laden line-up for the season, joining fellow young guns Robert Wickens, Christian Vietoris and 2011 F3 Euroseries Champion Roberto Merhi along for the ride in the V8 monsters for 2013. He had his most successful racing season last year, where fantastic results including wins at the F3 Masters in Zandvoort and the inaugural FIA F3 Championship, put him in line for a great progression with his Mercedes association, which seems to have taken a natural step forward to DTM.
“My DTM debut is like a dream come true. I cannot wait for the season opener at Hockenheim. I’ll be lining up for my first DTM race in a Mercedes AMG C-Coupé,” said the 21-year-old, “I would like to offer my thanks especially to Mercedes-Benz, since my success in recent years – and consequently this move up into the DTM – would not have been possible if it had not been for their junior programme and their support. I will now do my level best to maintain the confidence placed in me.”
Merhi welcomed his countryman to the team, but said that no quarter would be given on the track, with the pair having been team mates at Prema Powertrain: “I am very proud to again be part of the Mercedes-Benz family in the upcoming season. I learned a great deal in the DTM during my debut year and would like to use that experience to bring about consistent improvements and achieve better results this season. I look forward to continuing our scraps in the DTM.”
Vietoris now starts his third successive season with the manufacturer, with his best result of fourth place coming at the opening round in Hockenheim last year, but is still looking for improvements again: “However, as a member of the junior team, I am one of the more experienced DTM drivers, which means, of course, that I now expect to achieve more than I did these past two years. My goal this season is to secure a couple of podiums.
Canada’s other representative in the DTM, Wickens, gets another chance to showcase his skills this season, with the single-seater veteran looking to increase his tally of impressive results into 2013: “The DTM is one of the world’s best and most popular racing series, and I am very pleased that Mercedes-Benz has given me the chance again this year to see how I measure up against the best touring car drivers, competing at the highest level. I know that I have a lot to learn for 2013 but Mercedes has given me the opportunity to learn as fast as possible. I can’t wait to progress to the next stage this year.”
Guiding the Junior Team for this season will be current Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver, Nico Rosberg, who will during the coming year, will take the time to advise the four young drivers via this exciting initiative, that will help the drivers grow in knowledge and experience. Nico explained his close links with the series, thanks to his F1 Champion father, Keke: “I’ve been close to the DTM for many years, as a young boy at my father’s side to begin with, then as a driver contesting the junior series as part of the support programme, and now I have taken the wheel of various Mercedes-Benz DTM cars on a number of occasions. I am looking forward to following their progress this season and can maybe give the young guns a tip or two. I wish them all the best and every success.”
Toto Wolff, Norbert Haug’s successor as Head of Motorsport is hopeful that Stuttgart’s philosophy regarding young talent will be just one factor that will be effective, but said that streamlining the outfit was the key factor on approaching the year with a new strategy: “We hope to gain more flexibility in the development of our vehicles by focusing on six cars and using resources more efficiently.”
Poland’s famous son, Robert Kubica, had tested with the manufacturer recently at Valencia, and was hopeful of a possible race seat with them. A lot of hype had been speculated, but Mercedes may have respected Kubica’s decision, no matter what he had planned for 2013, which included being behind the wheel of a rally car. Could we see him in DTM in the future? It’s anyone’s guess…
So we now know who’s going to be fighting for the spoils and the glory at all three premium brands from the moment wheels get spun in anger at Hockenheim, and it looks to be even more exciting than last year. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, and enjoy the noise…