Fresh challenges for the DTM returnees
With four well-known faces and two returnees, that is how Mercedes-AMG Motorsport propose to tackle the 2018 DTM season. As was officially announced last week, Pascal Wehrlein and Daniel Juncadella will be back with the DTM this year. They are both very familiar with the series but can expect to face fresh challenges. Team captain Gary Paffett knows the two of them really well from their years together in the DTM.
“Pascal was DTM champion when he left us in 2015,” says Gary. “He was incredibly fast and quickly showed in his short space of time in the DTM that he could win races and the championship. He’s going to bring a lot of speed back to the team. Obviously, a great deal has changed in the DTM in recent years, but he’ll soon find his feet again and push us all hard.” For his part, Pascal is well aware of the changes that have taken place with new cars, new tyres and regulations: “A lot has changed in the DTM since my last race in the DTM season finale at Hockenheim back in 2015, but I like a challenge and can hardly wait to try out our new car on track for the first time.”
Of course, Pascal still remembers his last DTM race, as it took place on his 21st birthday – one day after becoming the youngest champion in DTM history during the 2015 season finale at Hockenheim. It didn’t really matter that the final race of the season did not go as he’d hoped. “I’ve got some terrific memories of the DTM, not least because of my title win in 2015, but also because of the strong team spirit and the many amazing experiences,” says Pascal, who has spent the last two years competing in Formula 1. “I’ve followed the DTM closely during my time in Formula 1 and have even been to a couple of races to see the team and support them.”
Daniel Juncadella will be back in the cockpit of a Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM this season alongside Pascal. The Spaniard lined up in the DTM from 2013 to 2016 and stayed with the team last year as a test and reserve driver. As a result, he will settle in that bit more quickly. “Dani was our reserve driver last year and so, knows everything that goes on in the team,” says Gary. “I think that when Dani left the DTM last time, he felt he hadn’t quite achieved what he set out to accomplish. He is very focused and full of energy, keen to prove to people just what he is capable of in the DTM. Overall, I think we’ve got an incredibly strong squad of drivers this year.”
Dani confirms Gary’s thoughts and feelings, saying: “It’s great to be back racing in the DTM this year. I’m really keen to get back in the car after a one-year break from competition in the DTM. I gained further racing practice last year thanks to race outings in a number of GT series and my role as test and reserve driver. I’ve remained very close to the team throughout the season and so, am familiar with the new generation of cars and the DTM rule changes. I’m pleased that at last, I can now contest DTM races again. I never really brought things to a satisfactory conclusion in the DTM and always had the feeling that my results never reflected my true ability. I now intend to put that right.”