BMW Motorsport has signed Jonathan Aberdein to fill the sixth and final seat in its factory DTM Series teams for 2020, leaving no works place for ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica.
Aberdein finished his rookie season in the DTM in tenth place of the 2019 championship, driving for Audi Sport privateer outfit Team WRT, and comfortably outscored team-mate Pietro Fittipaldi by 45 points – helped by two fourth-placed finishes at Assen and the Nürburgring.
It is understood that Audi was keen on keeping the South African – despite naming Ed Jones and Fabio Scherer as its new ’20 line-up at WRT in December – in a reserve role, due to calendar clashes between the DTM and the ABB Formula E championships.
Audi team Abt Sportsline driver Robin Frijns is reportedly favouring FE in the event of a collision and would need a replacement for the Norisring DTM weekend.
Aberdein’s team for 2020 is unknown for now, but he joins Marco Wittmann, Timo Glock, Philipp Eng, compatriot Sheldon van der Linde – who also moved between the two manufacturers for ’19 – and DTM returnee Lucas Auer in BMW’s factory efforts.
Joel Eriksson was dropped after an uninspiring ’19 campaign, while veteran and ’12 DTM champion Bruno Spengler has moved to BMW’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship programme for this year.
21-year-old Aberdein’s move is not without controversy, however, with Audi believing that it had agreed a deal with the driver in December; but the manufacturer is unlikely to take legal action against him.
“BMW has given me an incredible opportunity to become a BMW works driver in 2020 and I’m very thankful for that,” said Aberdein in a statement released on Thursday morning.
“I’m ecstatic to be participating in another season of DTM, I will be looking to build on my strong rookie year in 2019.
“I look forward to taking on this challenge with BMW.”
BMW motorsport boss Jens Marquardt said that Aberdein showed good potential and consistency throughout ’19, making him a highly suitable candidate for the Munich-based marque in its attempt to recover from a disappointing season.
The brand underwent an internal investigation at the end of the year, having finished with 550 points – just under half of Audi’s total of 1132 points.
“I am delighted that we have been able to give our last free DTM works seat to such a promising and extremely talented young racing driver as Jonathan Aberdein,” said Marquardt.
“He demonstrated his potential emphatically in last season’s DTM, when he repeatedly challenged his fellow works drivers and often beat them.
“I am confident that he will be a great addition to our strong driver line-up.
“Generally speaking, with our two newcomers Jonathan Aberdein and Lucas Auer joining our four established drivers, we have assembled an outstanding team.”
With news of R-Motorsport/Aston Martin‘s withdrawal from the championship after just one year, BMW is considering joining Audi in entering a privateer team to boost the field number up from 14 cars.
Kubica would be a strong tip for a seat in that eventuality, due to his healthy sponsorship connection with PKN Orlen.
The Pole, who returned to F1 with Williams Racing in ’19, took part in the DTM Young Driver Test at the Circuito de Jerez late last year with BMW.