Mercedes-Benz today announced its line-up of drivers for the 2013 DTM season. The three-pointed star will enter six DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupés this year in the world’s most popular touring car series. The aim of this move is to focus resources on a leaner, meaner DTM task force with the two experienced teams at HWA and Mücke Motorsport.
2012 DTM runner-up and 2005 champion Gary Paffett (31, England) will play a major role for Mercedes-Benz in the title hunt. His 19 DTM victories make him the most successful of the current crop of DTM drivers.
Ex-Formula 1 star Ralf Schumacher is about to embark on his sixth successive season in the DTM. With six F1 race wins, he ranks as the third-most successful German driver of all time at the highest level of the sport, entering the record books behind his brother Michael Schumacher and three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Ralf has been competing in the DTM since 2008.
Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz has added an extra driver to its DTM junior team. In addition to the current crop – Roberto Merhi (21, Spain), Christian Vietoris (23, Germany) and Robert Wickens (23, Canada) – Daniel Juncadella (21, Spain) will join the DTM junior team that was first established in 2012. This quartet of ‘young guns’ completes the driver line-up for Mercedes-Benz in the 2013 DTM season.
Junior team drivers will receive support from MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 driver Nico Rosberg, who will mentor the youngsters. The successful Mercedes-Benz Junior Team of the 1990s that included Michael Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger might well serve as his inspiration. Schumacher competed in four DTM races as a junior, gaining experience in the world’s most popular international touring car series. In the course of their careers, these drivers all successfully made the transition to Formula 1. Frentzen and Wendlinger subsequently raced in the DTM.
Juncadella joins the DTM as the current Formula 3 Euro Series champion. The Spaniard used Mercedes-Benz Formula 3 engines from 2010 through to 2012, winning the prestigious 2011 Formula 3 Grand Prix in Macau. Last year was his best to date when he rounded off the season with a number of successes – the Formula 3 Euro Series title, plus victories in the Formula 3 Masters at Zandvoort and in the inaugural FIA Formula 3 Championship.
This year marks the start of their second DTM season for both Merhi and Wickens. Merhi has been a Mercedes-Benz protégé since 2008, and, like fellow Spanish driver Juncadella, won the Formula 3 Euro Series championship in a Dallara-Mercedes before graduating to the DTM.
This will be the third season in the DTM for Vietoris. His best DTM result was fourth place in the 2012 season-opener at Hockenheim.
Developing motor racing talent has a long history at Mercedes-Benz. Since the Formula 3 Euro Series was first introduced in 2003, eight drivers have won the championship title running Mercedes-Benz Formula 3 engines. Teams powered by Mercedes have secured the team championship nine times, winning 170 of 209 races in total. During the same period, 13 drivers who had previously competed in Formula 3 powered by Mercedes-Benz moved up into Formula 1, including current MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, who won the 2005 Formula 3 Euro Series championship in a Dallara-Mercedes, having achieved 15 victories in 20 races.
Gary Paffett: “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: “The 2013 season will be number six for me in the world’s most popular touring car series. I feel very much at home in the DTM and in the Mercedes-Benz family. I have set myself ambitious targets this year and have already embarked upon an intensive fitness programme as part of pre-season preparations. 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.”
Daniel Juncadella: “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. 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.”
Roberto Merhi: “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. Congratulations to Daniel on his move up into the DTM. We were team-mates in the Formula 3 Euro Series at Prema Powerteam, and I look forward to continuing our scraps in the DTM.”
Christian Vietoris: “This season will be my third in the DTM; 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.”
Robert Wickens: “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.”
Nico Rosberg: “The Mercedes-Benz Junior Team in the DTM is a very exciting and important initiative, giving young drivers the chance to compete in motor sport at the highest level. 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: “Developing young talent has a long history at Mercedes-Benz, so it is entirely logical to increase the size of our DTM junior team in this second year and welcome a fourth driver to the team: Daniel Juncadella. Roberto Merhi, Christian Vietoris and Robert Wickens were faced with an extremely difficult challenge in their first year with the new generation of vehicles but did extremely well. So, there was never any doubt that they would continue their training in 2013. That too is part of a successful youth development programme. We would wish to offer our thanks to Nico Rosberg. Despite a strenuous and time-consuming Formula 1 programme, he will take time out once in a while to support our young DTM drivers and give them help and assistance. We have two seasoned and very experienced racing drivers in the squad – Gary Paffett and Ralf Schumacher – who will also act as guides to our youngsters both from a racing and human perspective. With the aim of making the best possible use of resources in mind, we have decided to race six DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupés this year. We hope to gain more flexibility in the development of our vehicles by focusing on six cars and using resources more efficiently.”
Source: Mercedes AMG DTM